There are hot spots. The left rear side of the grill was consistently hotter in the temperature gun readings and cooked noticeably faster. This is not unusual though, every grill I have ever tried has hot spots. What’s unusual about the Spark One is the way you set up the two-zone system.
Two-zone cooking refers to cooking with both direct and indirect heat. It’s the cornerstone of good grilling, and it’s easy to do with most charcoal grills: move the charcoal to one side. This side will be much hotter and become your direct cooking zone, and the other side will be your indirect cooking zone.
With the Spark One, it’s a bit more complicated. You need to remove the heat diffuser from the center. Then directly above the Briq is the direct heat, while all around are the indirect cooking zones. It works, but it is difficult to move things around when cooking because you are not going from side to side, but in a circle. This is not a deciding factor, but it will take some practice.
The only real problem with the Spark grill is the proprietary charcoal. It’s not cheap, around $ 5 a Briq, and a Briq is a cook. Well, ideally. If you’re cooking for two, say grilling burgers quickly, you’ll use a lot less than a full Briq. However, there is no way to keep the rest from burning, so you end up using a whole.
If, on the other hand, you are cooking a whole chicken and need a few more minutes … well, you better start your oven, because there’s no way to throw in a few Briqs. more like you would in a typical charcoal grill.
Briq options are also limited. The only ones currently available are for high temperature cooking. The Spark really excels from around 450 degrees to 850 degrees, with 500 being the sweet spot in my testing. If you want to cook slowly, for example ribs or brisket, you will need Spark’s Low and slow briq, which I could not test.
This goes to the heart of the problem of the availability of proprietary charcoal. You can order Briqs online from Spark, but if the company goes bankrupt you have an oversized $ 900 clipboard. This is technically not true, as you can cook with regular charcoal, but anything great about the Spark would cease to be great. Precision temperature control is gone, it’s a pain in the light, and in the end, it won’t cook any better than a $ 20 grill at a big box store. You need the Briqs.
That’s where the catch lies: expensive Briqs with limited cooking options. If you can live with that, the rest of the Spark One is awesome, and it really delivers on its promise of easy charcoal grilling.