When my cheap Chinese-made gas grill finally rusted into oblivion, I opted to just get a new grill rather than replace parts. Even the “enamel coated” grill itself had rusted on my old one. Rather than go with another big gas grill, I opted for a smaller charcoal model because food tastes better when cooked that way. After a bit of research, I went with the Weber Smokey Joe and have been quite pleased with it.
If you go to Wal-Mart and start looking at the smaller model charcoal grills, prices start around $15. Those are the thin painted metal ones that might last you a year before they rust out. The Webers will be the more expensive models, as this one was $29.99 and the next larger model up was about twice that. With the Smokey Joe, there is the Silver model which is slightly cheaper, and then this Gold model which is the same size and includes a lock for the lid.
Why did I pay more? It’s not because I’m one of those pretentious people who thinks that expensive means better. I bought the Weber because it is made in America. It costs more because Weber uses a higher grade of thick steel to make these. You can feel the difference with the display models. This little thing is much heavier than the others because it has more metal in it. It’s so dang good that Weber backs this with a 10-year warranty. That’s twice as long as my gas grill lasted! The grill grate itself only has a two year warranty, but you can buy replacements.
As you can see from the photo, this is a kettle style grill. It has a small grate at the bottom for you to place your charcoal, then the larger grate sits on top for the food. Vents are located at the top and bottom, so you can leave them both open to circulate air or control smoke. The egg shape of the grill helps to push all the heat upward so that you get a nice even temperature and it does more to retain heat than what you’d find on a box style gas grill. The lid is made of the same thick steel as the rest of the body, and it does well to keep in the heat.
The cooking area on this grill is just under fifteen inches in diameter, so it’s about the size of a large plate. That’s plenty of room to cook two giant steaks or four smaller ones, and even to make several hamburgers. If you’re cooking for just two to four people, this is perfect. For larger groups, you may want something bigger.
I’ve grilled steak, salmon, chicken, and various vegetables on this thing, and the results were all great. It took me a little while to adjust to using charcoal and I quickly realized that I needed to give the coals time to get good and hot before I start cooking. I suppose I was spoiled by the quick lighting gas burners. Once the coals were glowing red, I could cook a couple of juicy steaks and then throw some squash on right after. Even with all the liquids dripping out, the coals stayed plenty hot and the heat cooked everything quite evenly. There were no cold spots on this grill, so as long as you have grill space your stuff will get cooked.
The main downside to using this grill is that you need a place to put it. A lot of heat is generated from under the body so you don’t want to put this on a plastic table. I put mine on a wooden table I had built out of 2x4’s and it started turning the wood a grayish color. I have since used some leftover ceramic tile from a flooring project to work as heat shields. You could always set the grill on the ground, but then you have to bend over a lot and I don’t want to do that. Don’t even think about touching the body of the grill once it gets hot.
Ultimately, I am quite pleased with my Weber Smokey Joe grill. I only use it a couple of times a month and it’s compact enough to put away in my shed without taking up too much space. It does an excellent job of cooking anything you might want to grill, and the quality is obvious by comparison. Some assembly is required out of the box, but it only takes a few minutes.
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Amount Paid (US$): 30