By Christie Vanover | Published June 9, 2019 | Last Updated June 27, 2022
This KUDU Grill review explains why chefs have fallen in love with a South African style grill. Post includes assembly instructions and recipes.
Disclosure: KUDU Grills compensated me for this post. Opinions are my own.
I’ve had my eye on the KUDU Grill ever since it came out. I kept seeing restaurant chefs using it at home in their backyards or taking it with them on camping trips.
Here they were masters of the kitchens cooking over fire, creating dishes that mirrored what they prepared in their restaurants. Mad respect.
As a lover of live fire cooking, I wanted to know what it was that drew such notable chefs to the KUDU Grill.
How is the KUDU different?
The KUDU Grill is so simple by nature.
It gets its name from a type of antelope with twisted horns that is native to South Africa, and its design is based off of a South African style of open fire grilling.
But the KUDU goes beyond lighting a fire in a pit.
It starts with an elevated grill basin that holds the coals, but it’s enhanced with adjustable cooking surfaces that give you full control of your heat.
You’re probably familiar with the Santa Maria style grill. The Santa Maria type of grill has a grill grate that raises and lowers with a winch type of system. The KUDU uses a different approach.
Two nickel-plated poles are attached to the outside of the grill basin, and the grill grate slides onto a pole. It’s secured into place with a cantilever bolt. As you want to raise and lower the grate, you just loosen and retighten the bolt, which has an easy-to-grab handle.
The second pole holds a 16-inch skillet that can also be raised and lowered.
By combining these two cooking accessories, you can prepare a full meal with much more variety and control than a traditional fire pit.
In addition to raising and lowering the skillet and grill grate, you can also swing the surfaces back and forth over the coals. If you fill half the basin with coals and leave the other half empty, this gives you the ability to alternate between direct heat and indirect heat really easily.
How to Assemble a KUDU
As with most grills, some assembly is required, but it’s simple enough for one person to do it, and it only takes a few minutes.
If you buy the standard grill package for $499, you’ll get all of the pieces seen above. If you upgrade to the Blaze Package for $100 more, you’ll also get a smoker lid and grill cover. Getting the package, saves you $58.
To start with the assembly, turn the grill basin upside down, and slide each leg into the corresponding pipes.
Note: You will need to make sure the wing nuts are unscrewed to ensure that the legs go all the way into the pipes.
Tighten the wing nut to secure the legs. No tools are needed. Give the legs a good tug to make sure they’re sturdy.
Flip the basin back over (it’s light enough to do this by yourself, but get help, if you need to), and then add the side poles.
Just like the legs, they slide into pipes on the sides of the basin and secure with wing nuts. Again, make sure the nuts are loose before you add the poles, so that they can slide all the way in to the pipes.
The KUDU comes with both a grill grate ring and a skillet ring. Slide one onto each pole.
They get secured with those cantilever bolts I was talking about earlier. Again, no tools needed.
That’s All It Takes
When you want to disassemble it to take it on the road, you just loosen everything up.
The grill also has self-leveling legs. These are helpful for semi-uneven surfaces like dirt, grass or gravel.
It also has four spring handles, so you can move it around. I love when grill companies go with the upgrade and include this style of handle. They are so much more comfortable to grasp.
Once you add the side poles, grill grate and skillet, the grill is heavier and a little more awkward to move, so if you want to move it at this point, grab a buddy. There are two handles on each side, which is nice.
I don’t recommend moving the grill while the coals are burning inside. That’s just an accident waiting to happen.
My First Cook
For my first cook on the KUDU Grill, I was inspired by the many chefs who have turned out fabulous dishes on their KUDUs. Instead of simple burgers and hot dogs, I developed an Asian sticky chicken recipe and served it with a side of skillet charred bok choy and red peppers.
I only filled half of the basin with coals, so I could start the chicken over indirect heat. I was really impressed that I could just swing the grate away from the coals and back over the coals as I wanted. With a traditional grill, I would have to move each piece of chicken one by one.
You can decide if you want your grate on top or your skillet on top, but anytime you’re working with raw meat (especially chicken), leave the meat on the bottom to avoid cross contamination. Once the meat has reached the recommended USDA temp, you can then alternate the skillet and grate and allow the drippings to flavor whatever you have in your skillet.
Once the bok choy got a nice char, I flipped them over and added a splash of rice wine vinegar to the skillet.
Then the legs got a few dunks in a bath of Asian barbecue sauce and went back on the grill over indirect heat. I’ve got to say, I was pretty impressed with myself. I felt pretty cheffy. But really a lot of the credit goes to the versatility of the KUDU. It allowed me to combine indoor and outdoor cooking techniques in a fun way.
What I Learned about Using the KUDU
The one skill you’ll have to master when using this grill is raising and lowering the grate and skillet. It’s not hard. It just takes a little finesse.
If you unscrew the cantilever bolt, logic told me that gravity would make the grate drop down quickly, but the KUDU design helps alleviate that.
The cantilever bolt works as a handle, so as you unscrew it, you can grasp it to keep it up. Then, the grate ring and pan ring have handles, so you can hold them with your other hand to fight gravity. Be sure you wear heat-resistant gloves or use KUDU cooking towels, because the handles will get hot while you’re cooking.
You might be tempted to place your hand under the skillet to hold it up. That won’t work. The skillet rests inside of a ring. If you place your hand under it, the ring will drop while the skillet rests on your hand.
I recommend practicing the adjustments before you start your fire and add food, just to be sure you get the hang of it. Once you do, you’ll be ready to roll.
KUDU offers a few other accessories to go with the grill, including the smoker lid and cover, which I mentioned above. I definitely want to get the lid. That will allow me to impart more smoke in the meat, and will help with dishes that cook better when covered.
They also have a cool set of fire rings that turn the fire pit into an elevated campfire for everyone to gather around when the cooking is over.
Join the KUDU Nation
If you want to see what other people are cooking up on their KUDU Grills, join the KUDU Nation on Facebook, or follow the #KuduNation hashtag.
Or visit the KUDU website for a variety of recipes.