When my Dear Wife and I set out on our latest adventures in traveling contract work, it soon became apparent to us that there was one aspect of life at home that we dearly missed: our grill! At our house, we have had for several years a Weber Genesis propane grill that sees plenty of use year-round in our gentle, California, climate. Contract travel requires us to uproot every week and go to temporary lodgings elsewhere, usually three or four days at a time. While we are away there is no need for us to maintain a large grill as we are only feeding ourselves. Sitting on a small patio in a rented apartment or out under the awning of our RV, we reckoned it would be nice to be able to grill steaks and vegetables for ourselves if the mood struck. So while we were "stationed" in a larger city in Central California, I decided to run down to one of the local home improvement stores and check out small BBQ grills to see what was available.
Recommend this product?
Not surprisingly, the one that immediately caught my eye was the Weber Q 120. After owning a few junk grills back in the day, we decided to go with a Weber at home and have never looked back. The first one we bought I reviewed here on opinions longer ago than I care to remember. That particular grill is still going strong after more than a decade of use. We gave it to our neighbors whose old junker quit working and it is still in service, lighting every time. It is simply uncanny how reliable Weber products have proven to be for us. That smaller grill was replaced by the larger Genesis we now have, a move necessitated by our kids getting married and having kids of their own; more mouths to feed, more space needed on the grill. That particular Genesis has proven similarly reliable and versatile. So is it any mystery that I would again turn to Weber for our small, traveling grill?
The big box store where I went shopping had quite a few of the smaller Webers on the shelves. I wanted something that would not be heavy or too large to easily store. Our needs for this purchase were to be able to cook enough for two without difficulty yet still retain portability when it was time to pull the chocks and move on. Looking over the various lines in the store, I liked the looks of the Q 120 the best. It differs from its slightly less expensive cousin, the Q 100, in that it provides two fold-out work tables, has a 1 inch taller lid and includes a built-in thermometer. I didn't want to restrict myself to having to have electrical power to grill, so that ruled out the plug-in variants.
The grill seemed to match my requirements pretty well from a portability standpoint, too. The lid lifts up on this grill and the two work tables on each side fold up and stow inside the unit for transport and storage. One drawback that I saw was that the stubby little thing would have to rest either on a table or the ground for cooking. While in the store, I longingly eyeballed the clever little folding cart Weber sells as an accessory, but decided to "rough it" and take the more economical road, saving the extra $50 the cart would have cost. When I brought the grill home, my Dear Wife took one look at it where I had it propped on a couple of cement blocks and immediately went back to the store and got me the cart and a cover! I am very glad she did! Unless you are planning on using the grill only on a real tailgate or have a permanent table picked out, I highly recommend getting the little folding cart and cover. The cart is lightweight and sturdy, folds flat and is easy to put up or down, and the cover has kept our little grill looking nice after almost two years out of doors in various locations.
When I got the thing home, it did not take very long to put together. About all you have to do once you remove the parts from the carton is install the lid by inserting two stainless pins with retainer clips in the hinge mounts and mount the thermometer to the lid. Voila, instant grill.
While Weber sells an extension hose which will allow use of this grill with the large, 5-Gallon propane bottles (and I would recommend that option if you plan on really heavy usage) I actually prefer to use the 16-ounce propane canisters widely available at discount stores and the like. I find that one of those bottles will get us several meals cooked easily and we don't grill everyday. The bottles are cheap, easy to store, and I just keep a few stashed in our motorhome so that we always have a spare around if we run out. These little canisters are held in place by a threaded fitting on the right side of the grill, behind the burner knob. The design is such that one can easily view the threads to make sure they are lined up properly when "screwing in" a new one. Just be sure not to cross-thread it or you will be calling Weber for new parts!
Construction-wise, the grill is reasonably lightweight, yet still gives one the impression of sturdiness and heft. The grilling surface is a lift-out affair made of porcelain coated cast iron. When one lays a grilling spatula to it he is rewarded with a solid "tank" sound. Nothing slides around when the grill brush is used, either. The upper and lower clamshells of the Q 120 are made of solid cast Aluminum, no pot-metal or other junk can be found in the thing. The folding tables are something of a different story. They are made of glass-reinforced nylon but they are not something I would rest much weight on myself. They will flex when something too heavy is placed on them so I confine their use to holding serving platters and the like. If you happen to get the folding cart, don't plan on putting much else on it other than the grill itself. While there are hooks on the front for hanging BBQ tools, there really is no room on it to set anything while you are cooking. Still, the fold-out tables are incredibly handy and for that reason alone I would recommend selecting the Q 120 over the 100 model.
Inside, this model grill has a battery powered one-touch "clicking" ignitor controlled from a big red button on the front. Turn on the gas knob and hold the button til you hear it ignite. The grill lights quickly and has never failed to light on the first try. Weber has the whole grill-ignition thing down to a science. The burner is a stainless-steel loop affair, and provides even and efficient heating. The grills small size and layout pretty much means that you will have to keep the food directly over the burner as there really is no place on this small surface for "indirect" cooking like you will find on larger models. But Weber mitigates this somewhat by providing a super-low burner setting that combined with the grills heat-dissipation characteristics and large side vents allow a fairly low cooking temperature. I like to do pork ribs and roasts using the "low and slow" method and this grill will allow that, although still not as handily as a larger grill with multiple burner "zones" where direct heat may be shut off directly under the meat. Ah, the sacrifices we make for portability! Still, I can do a couple racks of baby backs in our little grill and they come out great.
At the other end of the cooking spectrum, the high-heat sear -- such as that used for steaks and chops -- is also handled well by the little Weber. While it will not reach the highest high I can achieve at home, I have found that the Q 120 knocks out great steaks with good charring and is a lot less prone to grease flare-ups. It is actually easier to turn out a good steak on the Q than it is my Genesis. Pretty good performance.
Our current setup of semi-full-timing out of our RV, which is a small motorhome we initially bought to use as a weekender and for short road trips, does not afford us much in the way of cooking space inside. For this reason, since one would be unwise to eat grilled meats everyday, I have been forced to be somewhat inventive in my use of the grill, and it has responded. One of my problems out on the road has been the preparation and cooking of soups. I could do it inside on the stove, but all the clanking makes racket when DW is trying to sleep. So what I did was go find myself a cheap, Aluminum wok with a semi-flat bottom. I chose one that would just fit inside the bottom half of the Weber. I pull the grill surface off and set the wok on the burner itself. Fire up the grill and add the ingredients and in no time we have soup. It works great, even though Weber doesn't advertise it as a capability.
Cleanup is about the same as it is with all my grills. Heat the thing up good and hot and use the brush to scrub the cooking surface. Fats and carbonized remnants fall out the bottom into a little slide-out catch tray resting beneath the lower clamshell. The tray is lined with disposable aluminum catch pans which can nest for storage. Replacements are available from Weber retailers.
When we are at our current remote location, I just leave the grill up, covered, sitting under our awning. When we pull out I either stash it into a side compartment of our motorhome and take it with or set it in the trunk of our little Nissan we leave on location as a runabout. The collapsible table accessory folds flat and the grill rests on top of it.
Pros and cons: While this model suits our needs fine, it must be remembered there are just two of us using it. If you must feed more, choose carefully. This grill will do maybe 12 smaller hamburgers at a time, and that would be pushing it. 8 decent-sized burgers, no problem. But if you like big mohunchers, you will get about 4 to 6 on this grill. 8 boneless pork chops, okay, but 2 small racks of baby-backs at a time is about all it can manage. It will make a nice sized meatloaf or a couple small chickens, but forget using the beer can stand technique; there isn't enough room to close the lid for that. So keep in mind the size of the crowd you intend to feed and what it is you intend to feed them. But for two people with normal appetites, the size of this thing is nearly ideal.
I wish there were a better way to know when the gas runs out, and that will happen after about 5 meals. You must be on the lookout for that telltale drop of the temperature needle on the grill. A fuel gauge would be a nice addition to this package, but, again, that would add more weight and cost, something this grill is designed to address.
Another con, I suppose, is the price. Yes, you will pay a premium to buy the Weber over any number of other competing small grills. But in this case you are not just paying for "The Name." This grill exhibits every sign of reliability I have seen from my other Weber gas grills. It lights, first click, every time. It never goes out on you unless you run out of gas, and nothing on it is likely to break if it is cared for properly and not mistreated. Just remember to fold the tables out before you light it! I forgot one time and let it start getting hot before realizing I had forgotten that crucial step! Luckily, I got it in time before any damage was done, but it would be possible to melt those things inside if you left them on high long enough.
So overall, I have to say that the Weber Q series is a really solid design, executed with quality and great workmanship that would be an excellent choice as a second, traveling, or tailgating, grill, or for folks with limited space and no need for the capacity of larger alternatives.
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Amount Paid (US$): 179