Our £5 barbecue bucket is no more! The bottom finally burnt through right in the midst of cooking our dinner, so the search is on for a replacement. We’ve come across some clever-looking innovations, but are they really any better than a basic barbecue?
We took a close look at the Cobb barbecue grill and the battery-powered Lotus Grill – both pretty expensive options compared to disposable. barbecues, which are frankly rather rubbish. The Cobb and LotusGrill, however, promise faster and healthier cooking, smokeless light-ups and easy-clean parts. They also have accessories that turn them into stoves as well as barbecues – pizza plates, lids and griddles, for example.
We’ve given both a thorough road-test now. You can find the Cobb review here. And the Lotus Grill here. PLUS…we’ve reviewed the rather wonderful Cadac gas Safari Chef barbecue and cooker for those of you who prefer gas.
It’s a barbecue at heart, but it can also roast, bake, fry, grill and even smoke food “to perfection”.
The charcoal (or ‘heat beads’ or the Cobb Cobblestone) goes into a wire basket, with a non-stick griddle above it. There’s a domed lid and a ‘moat’ around the fire that can hold vegetables, or a little water, wine or beer for flavour and moisture.
It takes between 15 and 25 minutes to get to cooking temperature and, depending on the fuel you use, can keep going for up to three hours. Fat and oil drain into the moat (so if you’ve got vegetables in there, you need to bear that in mind). It’s mainly stainless steel, weighs 3.8kg and is big enough to cook for between two and five people…but that rather depends on what you’re cooking and how big your appetite is!
There are lots of accessories and kits based around the Cobb, and a larger family-size Supreme Cobb at around £250, but the basic barbecue (Premier) starts at around £120. Oh, and there’s a gas model too, which could be useful (see our cautionary Europe note at the end). We haven’t tried the gas version, so do let us know if you have an opinion on it.
Be prepared for all the extras you’ll WANT to buy!
Its bright colours and techie design draw the crowds at the camping shows, so just what is the Lotus Grill? Well, it’s a barbecue with a battery-operated fan system that blows air over the charcoal to create a higher temperature for a smokeless start and a super-fast warm-up time. The dial regulates the air-flow for control over your cooking temperature.
We like one health aspect of the Lotus Grill – excess fat and oil can’t reach the charcoal and burn. That means potentially harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons shouldn’t be produced. There’s no definitive guideline on the risk of high-temperature meat cooking for cancer, but there is some evidence. Have a look at this Huffington Post article for some more information on that.
The makers recommend a good-quality hardwood charcoal rather than briquettes (definitely not heatbeads), and an ethanol (alcohol) lighting fuel not firelighters. The batteries are supposed to last for up to 60 hours (20-24 hours at maximum fan speed). There’s a family-sized XL version at around £200, plus a mini version that doesn’t seem all that popular.
So, which should I buy?
The benefits of both the Cobb and the LotusGrill are the lack of mess and less smoke. The Cobb is proving interesting for outdoor cooks rather than barbecuers. The Lotus Grill is the best actual barbecue we’ve used. Find out why here. If you’re planning a European trip, though, remember that barbecues aren’t allowed on many sites because of the risk of fire. That’s why the gas-powered Cadac is becoming such a popular option.