Debut dining with the Cobb oven

Cobb oven and kebabsWe’ve seen the Cobb oven at countless camping shows and we regularly get notes from people who say they love it…so, it was high time we gave this shiny, table-top, do-it-all cooker a test.

 

The Cobb was initially designed as an electricity-free cooking system for people in rural areas in Africa. The first prototype was a ceramic sphere-shaped device that apparently cooked well, but was heavy and cumbersome. The initial fuel source for the Cobb was dry corn-cobs, abundant in rural Africa – hence the name.

The oven has been refined to its present incarnation, which is fairly light (about 4kg) and portable. Instead of corn-cobs, it works on charcoal briquettes, lumpwood charcoal or its own ‘cobblestone’. As well as the standard Cobb, there are also compact, Supreme (oval and large enough to take two whole chickens), Pro (steel rather than mesh bottom section and gas versions. Prices range from around £85 to nearly £200.

Cobb oven diagramAs you can see from the diagram, the Cobb is made up of an outer ‘shell’, which stays cool when cooking. Inside, a stainless steel bowl holds a metal basket, which you fill with your fuel. Firelighters sit in the bowl under the basket.

Once your fuel is going, you place the grill and lid on the oven to heat up. The grill is a slightly convex non-stick plate with holes. Oils run down to the sides, through the holes and into the outer section of the steel bowl. That means you don’t get oil on the charcoal, so no flame or smoke and healthier food.

There’s a range of accessories for different types of cooking, including a frying pan, a griddle and a roasting rack. You can bake, smoke, make stews and paella or just use it as a barbecue.

Putting the Cobb to the test

kebabs on the barbecueWe put it through its paces with a menu of star anise and chilli marinated trout with an orange and watercress salad and orange chilli sauce, followed by skewers of garlic and ginger marinated paneer for the vegetarians and turkey for the meat-eaters (both with red peppers, courgette and onion). We served the kebabs with bulgur wheat salad and tzatziki. The fish was the star of the meal, and you can find our recipe here.

trout and orange saladWe used environmentally friendly firelighters (no kerosene) and seven ‘heat bead’ briquettes. It took around 25 minutes for the briquettes to get to the right temperature. We then warmed up the grill plate for five minutes.

Cobb ovenWe were totally won over, and here’s why:

  • We loved being able to cook with the Cobb on the table. It’s a much more sociable and comfortable way of cooking.
  • Strangely, we didn’t appreciate one of its best features till after we’d eaten – no smoke! One of our guests suddenly realised they’d been sitting right next to the oven without streaming eyes and smelly clothes.
  • The grill (which is the basic attachment and comes with all Cobb models) is fantastic for fish and smaller pieces of food. There was none of the usual food sticking to the barbecue grille and then falling through into the fire.
  • It was very easy to clean and stow away in its bag.
  • It came with a simple, but handy, lifting tool for moving the grill plate and charcoal basket.
  • Food was cooked-through rather than charred on the outside.

lighting the CobbSome things to consider:

  • The lid is vital. At first, we treated the Cobb as a basic barbecue and left it lid-less. It took far too long for our food to cook. When we used the lid, the extra heat made all the difference.
  • There’s some learning to do in getting the amount of fuel right. We used just seven briquettes, but found nine would have been better for our menu. It all depends on the amount of food and the length of time you want to cook for.
  • The edges of the grill plate don’t get as hot as the centre. If you’re making kebabs on skewers, go for shorter lengths to make sure you’re not left with raw ends and cooked middles!
  • The basic Cobb costs around £100. A full set of accessories can work out expensive. The Cobb cookery book has a tempting range of dishes that use all the add-ons bits and pieces, which can then seem necessary purchases. Take a bit of time to work out what sort of cooking you want to do or will, realistically do, and decide on your accessories accordingly. You can always buy more later.
  • The Cobb is less fierce than a barbecue, so cooking takes a little longer.

If you’ve used the Cobb and have a tip or a recipe to share, do leave a comment below. You can also find our review of the Lotus Grill here, and the gas-powered Cadac Safari Chef (our favourite camping stove) here.

 

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7 Comments

  1. I bought my Cobb more than ten years ago, and cook with it almost every day on holiday, and most Summer weekends at home.
    My Signature is Roast Smoked Chicken. This is best done with the optional Roasting Rack, which locks into the basic Grill Plate so no scratching of the non-stick, but any round wire rack should work.
    Chicken about 1.4kg, optionally put garlic, herbs, lemon or lime slices, or fresh herbs in the cavity.
    Just before you put the Chicken in the COBB, throw some fresh herbs onto the coals (woody herbs work well – Rosemary, Thyme, Sage or Bay Leave) and 100 ml of white wine or beer into the Moat. Chicken on, lid on, leave it at least 40 minutes before looking.
    Roast Potatoes: Peel or scrub and cut into even pieces about the size of a hen’s egg. Lightly Oil the Moat (kitchen paper held in tongs). Put the potatoes in the moat with a small amount of liquid at the start (100 – 150ml of water or cider or beer). If it works, the potatoes will par-boil in the water and the drippings from your roast will provide the fat needed to crisp the potatoes. Very impressive if it works … if not, then move the potatoes up to the Rack alongside the bird

  2. The thing I love most about the Cobb is the versatility. I have a Weber Smoky Joe which is a great little BBQ and I also own a Cadac. Both are good at what they do but they can’t do everything and this is where the Cobb differs because it can do everything. It is a BBQ, but I can also make breakfast on tot and fry eggs, I can make a lovely stew or curry for the winter months of camping, it makes a lovely paella or risotto. I can boil a pan or water and cook pasta but I can also roast a chicken or a leg of lamb. It will cook pizza (homemade or shop bought) and re-heat a pie. I can cook some veggies either alongside the meat on the grill or in some stock in the moat. It will cook bread and cakes (not that I make either very often). On one outing, not long after I had bought my Cobb, I managed to convert a very sceptical friend by serving him roast fore-rib of beef with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, all cooked on the Cobb! I can’t do that with my Weber!

  3. I also have had a Cobb oven for several years and wouldn’t camp without it. I have cooked many dishes, roasts, bread and cake with great success. I have tried the Cobb stones, lumpwood charcoal and briquettes. Australian Heat Beads ( briquettes) purchased online or if your quick The Range often has them at start of BBQ season. These beads give a much greater heat with fewer beads and less ash. The best thing is you can start with say nine beads but if its to hot take off and douse with water until it just steams then you can reuse what is left. They don,t disintegrate, also at the end of cooking lift the basket out of the base and douse with water to extinguish, no wastage. Brilliant!

    Peter

  4. bev from australia

    I have a cobb love it
    I use it at home, it,s a power saving devise ,.when the weather is favourable.
    I haven,t all the extra,s yet but I use a 4.1/2 litre cast iron oven directly on top of coals, &
    cook.corned beef, stew&dumplings,if too hot I use a wire rack on coals to raise the c/oven away from coals a bit .even cook a cake with the left over heat from cooking, just sit cake tin on top of the grill plate & place on lid.

  5. I’ve had my Cobb for a couple of years and it’s a great piece of kit. I like the fact you can use different types of cooking surfaces, I use the wok the most as it makes great stews and paella. Can also do roast dinners and pizzas so a nice variety away from the usual BBQ type dishes. Used when my kitchen was being refitted and during a powercut too!

  6. Claire Revell

    We too have a cobb and have had it for several years, and often cook bread and whole roast chickens on it! It brings a whole new meaning to camping when you can cook something other than the usual burgers, etc on the bbq! Also recomend an ozpig…essential for cool summer nights in the uk, and is also another great cooking device!

  7. Have used a Cobb at camp for years, cooking every thing from stews to bread, a good feature is the fact that 9 charcoal brickettes will burn for two and a half to three hours, so all ways remember to put on some water to heat once cooking is done, all ways plenty of uses for hot water around camp.

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