It's the start of prime grilling season and we've been out trying out our BBQ skills. After all, you need some time to break in your grill (and recipes) before the Fourth of July and the likely Independence Day potlucks and picnics. It's great to roast your steaks outdoors, but isn't always possible- we've had some nasty weather recently so have used the occasion to also try out some indoor options. You can't quite expect the same outcome- the temperatures and even the methods are a little different. But we have two options today to fit most any basic grilling need.
Let's start with the Cobb Premier Portable Grill/Smoker (and the fenced roasting rack accessory). This is a pretty unique item, featuring a nifty construction- it's not very large, but comes with it's own carrying bag and is super-simple to setup. It also looks great, cleans up easily, and can cook for a couple of hours on a few charcoal briquettes. Reaching temperatures of up to 450 degrees, this isn't the best grill for reaching searing temperatures, but does have the bonus of working well as a smoker. They claim that the base stays cool to the touch, and we agree- it seemed safe enough to use. And light wind wasn't a big issue. At the end of our cookout- during which we fit a couple of steaks and some veggies inside, or about four hamburgers, or a small chicken- we were able to pack it all up.
The Cobb is totally dishwasher safe and though there were several parts, it disassembles and reassembles easily. At 9 pounds, it seemed a bit too heavy for backpacking, but perhaps a bit limiting for car camping. It also takes quite a while, of course, considering the lower temperatures. But the upside is that you can set it and walk away- leave it and come back a while later and your meat or veggies should be nicely done with plenty of flexibility. We found that it takes some testing to figure out exactly how to place and setup your food for cooking, and that it doesn't work very well in colder temperatures. But for $142 or so, available widely online, it's a good deal and a lovely and solid portable charcoal grill.
The Zojirushi Indoor Electric Grill is a bit different. For starters, you'll need an outlet- and to inside. The maximum temperature is even lower- about 400 degrees. But the included drip pan and angled non-stick surface mean that cleanup is the easiest of any grill. It heats up fast, and is extremely adjustable, and best of all doesn't create any lingering smoke or odors. Handles and the base stay fairly cool, so it can sit on a table safely. And the cooking surface is plenty big- not gigantic, but bigger than the Cobb. We like Zojirushi products, such as their excellent water boilers for tea and coffee, but hadn't thought of them as a more general appliance maker, so were excited by this addition to their line.
We weren't surprised by the build quality or consistent heat, but were a bit disappointed in the results for thicker steaks- the searing that we appreciate so much just wasn't quite possible. But vegetables and fish all came out great, along with thinner slices of meats. Some competitors offer reversible surfaces- flat or griddle-like on one side- and we would've liked this option. Also, a cover would've been great- it definitely would've helped us reach higher temperatures or cook things a bit faster. We recommend sticking to wooden implements, as we did notice a scratch from one of our metal spatulas. But it's a great deal at $70, and Zojirushi has, erm, cooked up a fantastic indoor grill.