For most of my home owning years, I thought “bigger grills make better food.” How else could I have a neighborhood party without one of those big, silver, high BTU grills? Well, it turns out that after achieving high end BBQing bliss, the parties rarely happened. In fact, when we finally had occasion to use the grill for entertaining, I struggled to find a use for of the silver behemoth’s 3 independent burners, side hot pot eye, or the still-shrink-wrapped rotisserie attachment! Like many things in my life at this time, I just didn’t need everything I’d purchased.
Then came the Airstream. When we started camping, I wanted to take our grill along. Despite my pre-conceived notions of good grillin’, I was as surprised as my wife when I put the words “minimize” and “grill” together in the same sentence.
Our First Attempt at Grill Minimalism
We wanted a grill we could carry along on our new Airstreaming adventures. It had to be portable, but there was still a little devil on my shoulder wanting the high BTU, wide cooking surface and whizzbang features of the big silver guys. I felt I made the perfect compromise when i found the Coleman Roadtrip portable.
It was foldable and rollable, but still pumped out high BTUs. It had 2 burners for indirect grilling and it even had 2 folding table arm things! It was also 2009, and I hadn’t fully embraced the minimalistic outlook of my 2011 self – this grill was still more than we needed.
While technically “portable,” it was big and heavy. It had wheels, but lugging it around was not very enjoyable. There was plenty of grilling space, but it became so uneven over time (even after multiple cleanings) that I basically could only use 1/4 of all that surface.
It was also wasteful for our needs. We would use an entire 16 ounce canister of propane every 2-3 meals. For 2 people, it just doesn’t make sense to spend all that fuel heating up a full size grill when we only need (and could use) a quarter of it.
So, after two years of service, I’m giving up on the Coleman Roadtrip. As you’ve probably read on Weaselmouth before, we’re too streamlined for a heavy, wasteful grill, even if it is a smaller one by most people’s standards.
A New Search Begins
Since we’re living in our Airstream full time now, portability and small footprint top our checklist. With smaller cooking surface, even heat distribution is obviously important. It needs to be simple to setup, use, clean, and put away. We prefer the ease and speed of propane, and since we’ll have plenty of propane access on the trailer, it only makes sense that our grill should mooch off the Big Weaz‘ propane stash.
There are lots of ultra portable grills on the market. Unfortunately, their pricing and marketing schemes are as varied and ridiculous as those of the big silver guys at Home Depot and Lowe’s.As a side note, this is where I learned the truth about BTUs.
Grill makers want you to think higher BTU = more grillin’ power. In reality, BTU is only a measure of how much gas your grill sucks over time. Sure more gas equals more fire, but many other factors lead to a grill’s true performance. In addition to checking the BTU, you should also consider how well the lid fits, how the materials shield external temperature and wind, how well the grill grate can absorb heat, and so on. There are many factors that describe your grill’s ability to retain heat and cook food, and BTU is only one of them.
The more I researched online, the more I found excessive prices that didn’t necessarily match the limited feature set or compromises made for smaller sizes. These are undoubtedly great portable grills, and I’m sure the materials and little extras are nice – electronic starter! foldable arms! Infrared heat coils! But they all come with decent price tags as well. At the end of the day, all we truly need is a small, portable, efficient cooking surface that’s easy to use, clean, and put away.
The New Minimalist Grill
The first step to a new minimalist grill is to decide how minimalistic you want to go. Having no grill at all is the first option. When travelling, you could always cook over campfire (if allowed). For convenience, you could carry a metal rack to cook on, or get one of these uber-slick Grilliput roll away BBQ in a stick metal racks.
For our two person needs, we find campfire cooking fun, but fairly wasteful and impractical for everyday use. Cooking with fire is difficult to manage heat, easy to waste fuel, and takes a long time. Plus, the ash and smoke require substantial cleanup.
Alternatively, if you camp in campgrounds or RV parks often, you could try your luck with the guillotine-like campsite grills as a true minimalist way to BBQ. By the way, if anyone knows how to stack charcoal or start a fire in one of these things without a) becoming completely covered in soot or b) pinching your finger, please let me know.
For our needs, this too seems too messy and not as reliable as carrying our own grill. Like the campfire, it also seems wasteful and slow for how we cook.
Then it happened. It appeared out of nowhere (ok, it appeared out of a random Amazon.com search with an average 4.5 star ratings from over 180 users). According to the reviews, this grill is small, lightweight, easy to set up, clean and put away. It is quality enough to last a few seasons, but not so high end as to attract sticky fingers. In other words, it’s the perfect grill for RVing.
The Perfect Minimalist RV Grill
Yes, that weber grill, the same one we’ve all seen before. They’re one step up from a hibachi grill, and are usually charcoal (we chose the propane version – the Weber 1520 Propane Gas Go-Anywhere Grill). I didn’t take it seriously at first either. But the more i compared price vs. features vs. value, I kept coming back to this little guy, and I’m very glad I did.
For portability, it certainly wins over the others. It’s feather light at less than 15lbs, it costs a fraction of the total price, sips propane, and is ridiculously easy to keep clean. A few other companies make a similar grill – Char-Broil and Blue Rhino are two we found. The quality of the handles and outer shell materials are much higher with the Weber, and parts are readily available should something break. Also, the Weber has something called a “Flavorizor,” which is essentially a metal tent that protects the flame from fat drippings (in turn protecting from flareups). We usually don’t go for the marketing gimmicks, but this one really seems to help provide the grill with even heat.
So far, we’ve cooked Shrimp, Chicken, Hamburgers, Salmon, and tons of Veggies on this grill and each meal is better than the last. I bought an adapter hose to hook it up to the Airsteam’s propane tank for gas so we never have to worry about running low on fuel. The only drawbacks we’ve found so far aren’t really drawbacks at all. The grill gets plenty hot, but loses a lot of heat when the lid opens – I see this as a good thing. One of my biggest faults as a grillmeister is a tendency to lift the lid too often. Now, I’ve got a reason to keep the lid closed! The other thing I’ve found is that heavy winds can blow out your flame at lower temperatures. This is easily avoided by turning the flame slightly higher when the wind is kicking up.
All in all, we’re extremely happy with the Weber 1520 Propane Gas Go-Anywhere Grill. It fits our needs and our lifestyle perfectly, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a portable grilling solution that is easy to carry, setup, take apart, and clean. This grill is definitely Weaselmouth Approved!
Now its your turn – what kind of grill do you carry? Have you tried the Weber go-anywhere? If so, tell us what you think!