After a late night at work I found myself in front of the television channel surfing when I came across an infomercial. Usually infomercials make a great sleep aid but this one really caught my eye and the next morning I was begging my assignment editor to buy one of these for review. The product is the Thermos® Grill2Go™ and it just may be one of the best products we've seen for car camping in the last five years.
If you're an avid car camper your choices for a cooking source are pretty wide. Many people use a two-burner camp stove or equivalent. Some people are hardcore and cook directly on a fire, while others press portable charcoal grills to the task. The Grill2Go™ takes everything that is great about a gas grill and puts it into a very portable package.
The grill is made by Thermos®, which is probably better known for its coolers than portable grills, so this is an interesting foray for the venerable company. We were able to purchase our grill from a local retailer and it included all of the, "act now," accessories offered on the infomercial and at the infomercial price (editors note - since this story was written, the Grill2Go™ has become widely available)
The assembled Grill2Go™ will run on a standard 20-pound propane tank, not included, but does include a special regulator adapter. However what makes this grill special is it will also operate for two to three hours off of a disposable one-pound propane canister, the same ones you use today to power your gas lantern and portable stove. The grill has 310 square inches of cooking area and two cooking surfaces. About two thirds of the surface is a grill for cooking a variety of foods, the remaining third is a flat griddle for cooking eggs, pancakes, toast, or frying up vegetables. The small griddle section can be switched with a grill surface, included. The burner is sealed below the grill so there isn't any open flames or flare-ups. This also makes clean up a snap (more on that later). The Grill2Go™ comes with a range of additional features including push button ignition, a built in grease trap that actually works, a built in level, and integrated cooking tools.
The unit requires only a minimal amount of assembly, but you'll need to follow the directions carefully. The directions strongly urged to wear gloves, but we never experienced any sharp edges the booklet warned about. The unit basically comes in four parts, the actual grill, the base, the legs, and the regulator. There are several other accessory pieces but they aren't required for operation.
Attaching the legs to the base was a little bit of a challenge, the legs don't sit flush with the bottom of the base so you need to raise them up a bit to line up the holes. Once assembled the grill was cradled by the base but don't be deceived, if you tip it on its side the grill is going to come out. The regulator snaps right in to the side and the remaining accessories, side shelves and cooking tools, attach right on. Our first go around took us about 15 minutes with little frustration thanks to the well written directions.
The Grill2Go™ was pressed into service on a car camping trip to Oregon with a family of four. The grill stored easily in the back of the company van, but if the rear seats were up, the fit would have been tight. The grill was setup in less than a minute at the campsite. This included attaching the one-pound propane canister, regulator and side shelves. A small portable stove was brought just in case the grill didn't live up to expectations.
The first challenge was pretty simple. Cooking tri-tip steaks, one inch thick, medium rare and grill some mushrooms - this isn't standard car camping fare! The Grill2Go™ got pressed into additional service when the small portable stove wouldn't work because the fuel canister was empty. Now a planned pot of water would also have to be boiled, so a steel Coleman Peak One one-quart pot was placed on the griddle section with the lid on.
First we'll tell you about the good. The grill lit on the first push of the ignition button and heated up quickly despite the cool ambient temperature. The steaks cooked to perfection and the enclosed grill caught what little grease there was and it deposited itself in the grease trap. When the cooking was done the grill was cool enough to pack in just ten minutes. Clean up was incredibly simple with the built in tool, two paper towels and a quarter cup of water. The cooking surface is extremely well built with a thick coating of Teflon. After the two-hour rainstorm before dinner, the meal was a welcomed comfort. The aroma coming from out site resembled that of a backyard barbeque and not huddled in the cold and damp of the waning daylight.
Now we'll tell you about the bad. We're a little concerned about the choice of materials on the Grill2Go™. The plastic base seems a little flimsy, although we didn't experience any issues in the field. Because the burners are sealed you don't get any flare-ups and while that is for the most part good, you won't get any smoky flavor off of the Grill2Go™. The metal on the body of the grill is thin and we're not sure how it will hold up, especially if gear is piled on top of the unit when it is stored. One of the small rubber feet on the lid of the grill came off within the first 15 minutes of use. There isn't a lot of room with the lid closed, and with our one-quart pot on the griddle, we couldn't close the lid down to hold in the heat. The other concern we have is that in cold conditions we're not sure how hot the grill can get. With the regulator set on, "high," the grill could only get to medium temperature, but more than sufficient for grilling steaks.
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