Sunday, November 9, 2014

COWYBOY GRILL - Cooking Off Grid and REVIEW

I'm going to briefly go over some various grills that we have been using, and then a review on the new Cowboy grill.

FIRST, just some quick background information.  The photo above is an outdoor pit that I learned to cook from after volunteering for several years at an 1800 living history museum. My kids and I would spend our time at several different homes, either cooking from a wood stove, or an outdoor kitchen. The farm I took this photo at was an actual one room home to a family with several kids who slept in the loft. Their kitchen was outdoors. Rain or shine, they cooked from this fire pit.

I loved cooking this way for the public and feeding my children homemade biscuits, and pots of stew.
One of the BEST MEALS I had ever enjoyed was when several families gathered together on the farm and cooked a huge Easter dinner - meat roasting in dutch ovens, pots of beans, potato salads, cobblers, fresh vegetables from the garden. It's been several years and I STILL think of that meal.

Anyway, I haven't been volunteering much at the farm since the kids are grown, but I wanted to capture that experience at home. So now we do a LOT of outdoor grilling and spending time outdoors.

Pictured is a very affordable small grill that we keep beside the table on the front porch. As you can see, not too large, but room enough for two iron skillets.

What  I like about this grill is that we don't have to use a lot of charcoal! We have a full sized grill in the backyard that is a hog when it comes to using charcoal. But its the grill we use when cooking large briskets.

Bacon wrapped tuna and jalapeno's!

Another grill we enjoy is the round portable grill. Very affordable. Both grills I've shown so far cost around $20. This particular grill we like using when cooking TABLE TOP. The table we're using, I had gotten free on Craigslist. I was going to paint over it, but fell in love with the shabby chic look.

An iron skillet takes up the whole grill. Pictured, I'm frying potatoes for breakfast.

This meal, I had to take turns with the cooking. Potatoes first, then meat last.


An added benefit of the table top grill is that it keeps the flies and mosquitoes at bay since the smoking food is right near the table.
The grill is easy to move when needing to make room at the table.
A very affordable grill (and something we've stocked up on) is this cheap $3 grill that you can find in many stores as well as Walmarts. This grill comes with 4 legs that you slide in, and it comes with charcoal. This is supposed to be a disposable camping grill. We've used the same grill over and over again table top. What I do is line the bottom with foil before using. This was our first table top grill before we found the round one.
We've also experimented with this grill INDOORS. Using hot coals from the wood burning fireplace. I was able to fry bacon and eggs this way with a flat cast iron skillet. This is something that I will do again if we were faced with a power outage in cold weather and I don't want to cook outdoors.
All of the grills I've shown were used with charcoal. But I've been wanting to cook more with firewood. Since we live within city limits, I wasn't sure on zoning laws and I figured building a fire pit like I had shown at the farm would be out of the question.

When I saw this Cowboy Grill Open Pit Grill at Sams ----> HERE, I realized this is what I have been looking for in place of the 1800 fire pit.

Not only could we gather around a nice fire pit, but we could cook an entire meal at once.
Thankfully, the store had a grill on display and I was able to inspect it to see if it was durable. I went home and researched and came very close to buying the RiverGrille Cowboy Charcoal Grill at Home Depot ---->HERE
Both grills cost the exact same $200. The grills were similar in appearance except the SAMS one was a bit wider in dimensions (from what I remember) and the Home Depot one came with a rotisserie!
BUT, the RiverGrille was sold out and needed to be ordered online and shipped. So I went with the one that was available at Sams. (If your local Sams says it's sold out at your area store, check with the manager first. Mine said online it was sold out, but in person, I found 4 grills available at my store.)
I think Home Depot offers a free service to put your grill together. The Sam's Cowboy Grill wasn't too bad to assemble (I read the reviews first), but once you get the 3 legs situated properly (was a bit confusing at first) the rest is easy. I'm pretty sure one person could do this alone, but I had a helper.

We also primed the grill first (as the instructions required) by adding oil to the basin and top grate.

Pictured, we grilled steaks using a combination of charcoal and firewood. After we cooked, we removed the top grate and enjoyed the fire pit.

What we liked about the grill is that it sits at a nice level off the ground - VERY STURDY - and is plenty large to have several friends gathered around in chairs.

There is a drain pipe in the center that you can open and allow the grill to drain if filled with water or ash. The grill does not come with a cover, so this is something that we will have to figure out how to keep dry or to move away from the rain.

But the big test was the following morning. I wanted to cook an entire meal with just firewood. A slight smoke rose from the heap of ash, and I added some twigs and pieces of paper and fanned it to life. I didn't have to strike a single match.

As the fire grew, I added more twigs and wood. This is how I would normally start the fire at the farm with the outdoor pit.

Ready to start cooking.

Coffee first.

What I noticed about the grill is that the grate is slightly warped in the middle, rising in a sort of mound. Not really noticeable, unless you're moving a skillet around and you see the difference when the oil inside the skillet rolls to the side. This is something I DID read about from the reviews.

What we LOVED about the grill is the swivel work table. We used it continuously to set the spices on, the cooking utensils, or to set our drinks.

The coffee pot hangs from the adjustable pot hanger hook. This comes with a chain too so that you
can adjust a pot higher or lower as needed. Each item (side table/hook) can be moved to various locations around the grill, and can either be moved to hover over the heat, or to move to the side.

With all of these functions, and the size of the grill, we were able to see so many ways we could cook an entire meal at the same time.

MY TWO CENTS on the grill:

During an off grid situation, I think this grill is perfect. It is a nice and sturdy self contained grill that can enable a person to cook safely and with either firewood or charcoal, or both at the same time.

With using just 2 logs of wood, and several twigs, I was able to cook an entire meal, and still had room for additional pans. Naturally, using firewood exclusively, you would have to attend the fire more often than with charcoal, as wood tends to burn fast, or shift directions, causing you to stoke the fire, and to feed it.

The warping of the top grate wasn't too big of an issue. But I will be doing updates on the grill.

As for the price. We have spent $200 before eating out with a large family. The price of this grill, is a good investment for UNLIMITED family gatherings. Something we really can't put a price on when the family is eating together and spending time together outdoors.

If you purchase this grill, or decide to buy the one at Home Depot, I would love to hear back from you on your opinions! We are looking at adding a rotisserie to our grill in the near future.


Patricia Tow said...

I enjoyed this review.. I wish I could come visit so I could enjoy a meal around the pit

Jeffrey Shoff said...

I purchased this grill from home depot and have used many times with various techniques. Brisket, birds, ribs,steaks, you name it. I found that it could be used for smoking as well. All I used was a galvanised trash can after burning it off for good bit. Works great. Drilled holes in the bottom for smoke and draft control.slotted the sides so it easily slides over my rotisserie attachment. I really wouldn't want cook on anything else now. Best investment I have made. Everything I cool on it gets raves!!!

Helen Ruth said...

What an ingenious idea! Feel free to share a photo of your "smoker".. We still love our grill!