April 11, 2012
Filed under Stoves & Cookware
Many of your camping experiences are focused around the campfire. It’s often the main source of heat, the social center of the camp, and chances are that hearty meal you’re about to enjoy was prepared on a grill over a campfire. There’s just something wonderful about the juicy aroma of a meal grilled over a fire that’s carried on the breeze throughout the campsite. It inspired us to take a good hard look at four popular campfire grills.
Each of the grills brought in for this campfire-cookout comparison claimed in some way or another to be perfect for your camp grilling needs. One of these four grills may be perfect for you depending on your camp cooking style and budget. Three of the grills are in the $60 to $70 price range, with the fourth being about $40. We compared two small grills and two larger ones, that way you can size up the perfect grill for you.
From a convenience standpoint, the Adjust-a-Grill was a joy to use, and gave the impression it was developed with extensive camp grilling experience. We had this grill set up in less than a minute. Pull it from the drawstring bag, pound in the post, attach the grill and you’re ready to cook. The grill is built from solid steel with an FDA-approved, 1200-degree black powder coating. Features that set it apart are the handle bars that stay cool to the touch when rotating the grill or adjusting up or down, the wing-nut-style fastener that allows easy adjusting, and an extra fastener welded to the unit that attaches the post flat against the grill. This makes it easy to pack and carry as a single unit — you won’t even need the carrying bag. One drawback is the lack of a raised edge to prevent food from rolling off. Unless you flip it over and mount it upside down like I did, then you have a three-eighths-inch lip around the perimeter — problem solved. At 16-by-16 inches, it’s small and manageable, yet still big enough to cook for four-plus people. This truly is a grill for campers on the go. It retails for $59.99, or buy it with an optional fire pan that sets up on the ground for $175.
Adjust-a-Grill, 801-943-7555, www.adjustagrill.com
The Pioneer by Perfect Campfire Grills
If you’re looking to save money on roughly the same size grill, the Pioneer by Perfect Campfire Grills may be the answer. The 18-inch diameter grill is big enough to feed a small group of campers and small enough to stay sturdy on a single post. The chrome-plated steel grill has a nice, three-quarter-inch raised edge to save your food from sliding off and inadvertently feeding the fire. It also rotates and adjusts up and down, but the L-shaped “elbow” bolt (instead of a wing nut) and the absence of handles makes it slightly less convenient. An oven mitt and a potholder are included with the purchase price, saving your hands from the hot grill. Also included are two forged open-end wrenches to secure the grill to the post, but hand tightening is really all you need. The two-piece post doesn’t secure to the grill after use, which makes the polyester storage bag necessary. The bag’s hook-and-loop fastener doesn’t work the greatest, but despite these minor inconveniences, it has an affordable price of $39.90, and overall the grill is satisfying and easy to use. The manufacturer is currently developing a fire pan for this grill, which I also tested. It attaches to the post so it never touches the ground, and worked quite nicely. Once it’s available, you will be able to use it virtually anywhere.
The Perfect Campfire Grill, 248-627-1172, www.campfiregrill.com
The “New” Original by Perfect Campfire Grills
For an extra $20 you can considerably increase your grilling capacity with the Pioneer’s bigger brother, the “New” Original. You’re getting the same great benefit of a chrome-plated steel grill with a three-quarter-inch raised edge, and like the Pioneer, it attaches to a solid steel two-piece post, and comes with a complimentary oven mitt, pot holder, two forged open-end wrenches and uses the same style carrying bag, with the hook-and-loop closure and a carrying handle. The manufacturer claims you can feed a crowd with this one, and at 20-by-25 inches, they’re right — it provides nearly double the cooking surface of the Adjust-a-Grill for essentially the same price, $59.80. I was a bit concerned about the stability of such a large grill on a single post. This can be an issue when staking the post in a fire bed that’s thick with compacted ash, such as I encountered. However, this grill is large enough to sit right on top of an average sized fire ring, so you won’t need to bother with the post, should your grilling skills make adjusting the height a moot point.
The Perfect Campfire Grill, 248-627-1172, www.campfiregrill.com
The Quik Adjust Grill
You can solve any stability issues you may have with single-post grills with a four-post camp grill like the one from Quik Adjust. However, pulling it out of the zippered bag can be a daunting and almost scary operation as you avoid the four big spikes dangling from the corners. Each post remains connected to a corner with a heavy duty ring, which seems convenient but it creates some hassles getting the grill out of the bag, setting it up for grilling, and putting it back in the bag. This of course translates into longer set up time and less convenience. But what it lacks in convenience it makes up for in stability, and it’s by far the largest and most stable of the group. At 18-by-30 inches, this grill feeds a big crowd, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding a friend to help you set it up. The stability of this handsome chrome-plated steel grill will keep you worry free.
Adjusting the grill up or down is indeed quick with the Quik Adjust. Just grab a stainless steel patented tab adjuster in each hand and slip your side of the grill up or down instantaneously, and the tabs are always cool to the touch. By yourself it’s a two-step process to adjust one side of the grill then the other, but here’s the potential drawback — you hope the food doesn’t roll off! I placed hot dogs at the center to see if this would happen and after lowering one side about 30 degrees, they didn’t roll off and I did not go hungry. A three-quarter-inch raised edge around the perimeter is there to help save your food from taking an unexpected dive into the fire. Also included are extra springs for the connectors and a stamped (rather flimsy) metal open-end wrench for post maintenance. This grill is more permanent than the others, a less likely choice for campers on the go, and more likely for those that stay in a cabin or RV or intend to keep it in the same spot for a few days or more. An optional fire pan is in the works.
Quik Adjust, 1-866-800-QUIK (7845), ext. 202, www.quikadjust.com.
All of these grills are sturdy units, each with its various benefits and drawbacks. The choice you make is less about the cooking (since they all adjust) and more about the kind of camping you’re doing when you use your grill, whether you’re concerned or not about being light and mobile, or whether or not you have a small party versus a large group. The size of the grill is likely the first choice any camper will make.
Of the small units, you will pay more for convenience. The minor conveniences loom larger for real backcountry camping, so if this is your kind of adventure, spring for the extra features and portability of the Adjust-a-Grill. Weekend campers who frequent campgrounds or state parks might consider saving a few bucks on the less expensive, yet reliable Perfect Campfire Grill Pioneer.
The big grills are priced essentially the same, and both feature a good raised edge and large cooking surface. Choosing between them comes down to stability versus versatility. The Quik Adjust meets and exceeds any stability issues with four corner posts and the patented adjustment tabs make for snap adjustment. On the other hand, if you require a more convenient set up and break down time as you feed your army, then the Perfect Campfire Grill “New” Original may be best for you. Regardless of your choice, any camper would be happy to have a meal made on one of these grills.