Modern Home Products(MHP) was founded in the 1950s in Antioch, IL, by Walter Koziol to sell outdoor gas lights under the trade name Charmglow. In 1960 he introduced the first consumer gas grill and began his quest to convert America from charcoal to gas.
Except for one model, the GJK, all MHP grills are made with cast aluminum, making them practically indestructable. Some even come with lifetime warranties. They withstand harsh weather, abuse, and they never rust. MHP owners love to brag about how old their grill is, how they never clean it, and especially how they never cover it. I remember these big black boxes on ground posts in parks and resorts when I was growing up. Not having seen one up close since my childhood, I was struck by the old fashioned appearance. Whether they’re dated or classic is in the eye of the beholder. In the 60s this cast aluminum design was the rule rather than exception. It is still made by a few other companies like PGS right here in the USA. But you won’t find these at any big box store where almost every grill is steel and, more often than not, made in China.
They pass a lift the lid and shake test with ease. The cast aluminum housing of the cooking chamber is thick and solid. The novel “Stay Kool” handle is a perforated stainless steel tube. It rolls freely within its side mountings as you lift.
Remove the grate and you’ll see notches on the front and back of the grill body which are built-in shish kabob skewer holders. Instead of metal flavor bars over the top of the burners, MHP uses “Flavor Master” porcelain briquettes which rest on a porcelain coated grate just above the burners. In the beginning, lava rocks were employed, but the smooth uniform shape of ceramic briquettes promotes even heat and allows gunk to burn off more effectively. MHP goes a step further by using kiln fired, porcelain coated briquettes. They believe this system provides more even heat, vaporizes drippings better than most flavor bars and, of course, will not rust as do most flavor bars. The bottom aluminum casting tapers toward the back to divert grease into a small stainless steel cup. However, MHP claims not much grease escapes.
Three different grills or heads are offered for built-in construction or for mounting on a variety of posts, columns, and carts.
Most models come with stainless steel rod cooking grates and warming racks, but all may be upgraded to the MHP “Sear Magic” grates (right). Sear Magic consists of two sided, reversible aluminum cooking grates. One side is ribbed for grill marks and the other is smooth. As the name indicates, they intensify heat from standard gas burners and work in tandem with IR burners to sear while reducing moisture loss. They are similar to the popular GrillGrates, but not quite the same, and of course MHP came first.
Most models have one large stainless steel “H” burner that is effectively two burners fused together with two controls for zone cooking. Temperature range is 300°F to 550°F. A side burner may be added to any model. All are available in natural gas or LP gas and can be retro-converted. All have battery powered electric ignition. All come with built in “heat indicators”. We do not like “heat indicators” and prefer you purchase a digital thermometer. They actually removed them for a period of time but then, bowing to public demand, brought them back with a higher quality device they claim to be accurate within 15 to 25°F.
All stainless steel carts, burners, grates and hoods are high grade 304 stainless steel. Rotisseries may be added to any model except the JNR4 because it has a lower profile lid. The rotisserie kit and 12,000 BTUs removable IR backburner are optional.
Bottom line. If you like both low maintenance and durability, take a look at MHP, particularly the cast aluminum models. There are reasons the MHP warranty is so good and campgrounds and parks use them. Since the “H” burners max out at about 550°F, consider getting at least one IR burner. They don’t come with a lot of goodies, they aren’t cheap and some may feel they lack curb appeal. But these cookers are time-tested, rock solid, versatile, and unique.
JNR4 (right) with single NuStone shelf (NuStone is synthetic, faux stone).
JNR4DD with single stainless steel fold down shelf. All shelves have built in tool hooks.
30,000 BTUs from one “H” burner
1/4 inch stainless steel rod cooking grid
365.5 square inches primary cooking area
129.5 square inches warming rack, 140.5 square inches with Sear Magic grates
WNK4 (left) with two NuStone shelves.
WNK4DD with two stainless steel fold down shelves.
40,000 BTUs are achieved with a larger “H”burner than the JNK models
Two 5/16 inch stainless steel rod cooking grids
433.5 square inches primary cooking area
208.5 square inches warming rack, 140.5 square inches with Sear Magic grates
High profile lid to accommodate all rotisserie functions
TJK2 (right) with two stainless steel fold down shelves. Same as the WNK4DD except it has a single wall, high profile stainless steel lid with aluminum end caps. The stainless seems like a nod to contemporary tastes, but why the single wall for a company that prides itself on even heat retention?
Infrared and hybrid models
These models replace the “H” shaped burners and with ceramic infrared burners and replaces the standard grates with Sear Magic grates. They are available with WNK4DD and TJK2 housings described above. Hybrid grills come with two oval cast stainless steel burners and one IR burner for 38,000 BTUs. Infrared models have three IR burners for 35,000 BTUs. MHP claims that their IR burners can reach 700°F at grate level. The Sear Magic grates not only provide an excellent cooking surface, but help shield the IR burners from excessive drippings. Porcelain grates and briquettes are not included with the Infrared models.
You can chose to have the grill mounted seveeral ways: 48″ aluminum post for in-ground installation or mounting on a patio base, or various columns and carts offered in aluminum, coated steel and stainless on wheels or a patio base. Some have enclosures for a propane tank, some do not, but none have doors, shelves, condiment trays, etcetera, and none of these features are offered as extras. A stainless steel masonry enclosure for built-ins with a matching set of double doors is available.
MHP took their existing components and created a large, 36″, stainless steel grill which may be installed or purchased on a cart. GJK has a contemporary look, but without bells and whistles like digital thermometers and hood lights. Indeed, the only electric components are the battery ignition and optional rotisserie. Gone is the heavy cast aluminum housing that defines MHP in so many ways. Although GJK is a quality grill from a reputable company, it has a “me too” element that’s easy to understand but lacks the unique Charmglow charm.
Nonetheless, it’s a nice machine. The double wall stainless steel lid with cast aluminum end caps is an upgrade from the TJK series. Your choice of two “H” burners for 54,000 BTUs, or two IR and two cast stainless burners for 45,000 BTUs. Available with 5/16 inch stainless steel rod or Sear Magic cooking grates. Sear Magic is standard with the IR burners. 592 square inches of primary cooking surface with a 310 square inch warming rack that swings up and out of the way for rotisserie use. The large rotisserie and 16,000 BTUs IR rear burner system are optional. Matching stainless 18,000 BTUs side burners are optional for carts or built-ins. The GJK cart has two double walled doors and four casters.
For built-in installations, MHP offers some drawers, doors and a pull out trash compartment. Tools, shish kabob skewers, a smoke box, and other accessories are available. As for parts, these guys have been around since the beginning of gas grilling and many older models are still working in the field. They got parts. They even have a “Restore a Grill” section at their website.
The warranty is exceptional and testifies to stories of indestructability MHP owners are keen to share about their grills. Limited Lifetime Warranty on housings, control panel, stainless steel burners, cooking racks and Sear Magic Grids. 5 Year Warranty on IR burners and porcelain briquettes. 1 Year Warranty on igniter, gas valves, knobs, NuStone shelves and patio bases, and briquette grates.