I bought this grill about 3 years ago in Florida:
It has a price sticker on it of $49.98 but I was buying it end of “season’ (do they really have Seasons in Florida?) on sale at Walmart. The link above says $39.95 and I think that’s about what I paid for it. $10 off comes to mind.
So I’d intended to assemble it and use if for grilling in the “Vacation Cottage” (i.e. immobile mobile home they rent out fully equipped and furnished at the RV Resort) But before I got it assembled, I ran into a propane portable grill being abandoned by someone else.
Sidebar on RV Resort “Stuff”: As there are lots of itinerant folks in RV resorts, they often buy stuff to use just a while, then don’t bother to take it with them. It was a couple of months before I figured this out. It seems it is a normal cultural part of the process to set “good stuff” where it can be found and reused. Eventually, when I left, I even put a dinky / miniature electric frying pan I’d bought “almost new” in box in the club house pick pile. Seems a 8 inch pan wasn’t quite what I wanted and the heat distribution wasn’t ideal – so someone else got it for free (gone in about an hour ;-) Similarly books to the clubhouse library. Various dishes and gadgets and the “castoff” from an upgraded TV. All sorts of stuff.
So I had this portable propane grill that was fine other than that the folks didn’t know how to tighten the screws holding the handle to the lid. 2 new screws later, working grill. Well, I used that one as it was already assembled. After about a year, it was time to pack up and go home. I’d never assembled this charcoal one, so it, new in box, went into the car. The propane one, now with working handle but also with a season of use, went to the “Free Stuff” pile (again…) Why drag home a dirty / greasy grill if you can transport New In Box?
SO OK, I get home, and I’ve got my OLD portable charcoal tin pot grill ( the $20 “special” kind… of rectangular tub & lid with wire grate & grill) along with the big Webber propane one I “inherited” when the kids moved out. So this box went in the corner of the office for a couple of years.
Today, finally, the weather was good for a BBQ. Turns out the old tin pot BBQ had pretty much rusted out since last use, so it hit the recycle bin. My POB BBQ in the back patio area had nesting doves under the awnings about 4 feet away. Not wanting to smoke them out, and not wanting to move my Pile Of Bricks, and the big Webber being out of propane… I decided to assemble this one. (Kingsford Model No. CBT1340WB)
This is NOT a Deluxe Grill
Now remember to bear in mind the market segment this is aimed at. Portable, cheap, not an investment. I read a review on Amazon (the review is up but the product is no longer listed) that basically panned it for having cheap thin sheet metal and not being air tight when closed. What the? This is NOT your $300 Webber by the pool! Folks popping $40 for a grill are likely thinking at most one season, and likely just one trip.
So yeah, it will likely rust out by the end of next year if I leave it out doors in the rain. No, it will not let you rust off 1/8 inch of steel and repaint it. It also doesn’t weigh 200 lbs and need wheels…
What caught my eye
It has a minature 3 inch “smokestack’ with vents in the top, and a vent slider below the coals in the back. There is SOME ability to control burn rate and do more smoke less fire when grease starts to drip.
It has a relatively large charcoal area ( 20 inches long and about 16? deep) so I can actually use some of the larger pieces of manzanita P.G. gave me without the need to cut / break them. (I’ve pretty much used up the little bits in my POB BBQ ;-) This also means I can lay out coals on 1/2 of the bottom, have more than enough area to grill for 2, and my choice of direct or indirect heat.
It has an ash drawer, so I don’t need to pick the whole thing up to shake out the ashes.
It has a lot of screws. All the fasteners, washers, a screwdriver, and a “wrench” (sheet metal) come on a single card with plastic over wrap and nicely labeled.
There’s about 80 of these hardware bits. Not as bad as it sounds, as often it is a stack of “screw, washer, lock washer, nut” at a location, so more like 20 locations. But that is still a lot of small assembly. I really think some clever use of interlocked stampings, or just a more complicated bottom stamping, could reduce the number of fasteners. But hey, it works.
It claims 30 minutes to assemble. I took 1.5 hours. I was NOT rushing. I did have the screwdriver break off one of the philips point ‘wing’s about 1/2 way through, and so swapped to my own. It is a one use design screwdriver and does not take high torque well… The “wrench” is sheet metal. It works, barely. I’d be glad to have the tools included were I in a trailer at the beach. I used my socket wrench and real screwdriver instead.
Assembly is mostly just matching up the right screws and putting them into the right sheet metal. I did manage to confuse the M and N lock washers. I used my needle nose pliers to open the just slightly too small washers to put on the end (lifting) handles. Later to find I had some slightly too large washers for the other handles and the “smokestack”. Note to self: Find glasses… The items are in alphabetical order in the instructions, but not on the card, so you get to hunt around to find where C and L and I and M and N are on the card.
I also started to install one latch upside down. It did not have any orientation limits. I got it caught in time though. (Latches go ‘flat side up’ on the bottom, 3rd screw hole down, but there is no place behind it for the third screw, nor is there a 3rd screw – I suspect they ‘simplified’ and removed one pressed in nut, but made ambiguity).
Eventually it all went together.
First thing you do is load some charcoal and get it blazing, then with vents open close the lid and let it cook for 15 minutes. This drives the volatiles and oils out of all the paint and manufactured bits. After that, it’s good to go.
I loaded up about 2/3 of the bottom with self light charcoal and 3 manzanita sticks. When the “burn off” was done, added 6 pieces of chicken and proceeded to grill.
As this is a small grill, it will have the handles get hot if they are over the fire. So open the lid, your hand and the handle is passing about 16 to 20 inches above the grilling surface and it will be warm / hot. (The directions say to use gloves, I didn’t, but did use the spatula to do some of the lift / close – more out of general habit than anything else; I’ve grilled before ;-)
It has what it calls a ‘warming shelf’ that is a raised rear section of grill. About 6 inches wide x 20 inch length. Used for the typical “bun warmer or this piece is cooking too fast get it off the flaming bit and further from the coals”. I like having 2 levels of grill height in a cheapo tin grill!
The box is not air tight. (Well, duh…). So closing the lid, it does leak smoke from the join of lid to bottom pan. I had “enough” control with the air damper and smokestack damper to be able to get smokey brown chicken not flame licked black. When in doubt, put the coals at the non smokestack end and the grilling meat at the other for indirect heat. I had a pile in the middle, with fade out toward the ends with a 3 to 4 inch ‘no coals’ at the ends. It’s a personal style thing ;-) So with a bit of positioning and moving I was able to make very nice chicken with good flavor and cook the thin section of the thighs properly while the bone / thick part was also done right. ( I always cut the thigh near the bone to make a thin and thick part and where the bone is near a cut edge so cooks too. I guess that means I had 6 thighs but 12 pieces 8-)
As the coals were running down (even with the 15 minute pre-burn) the chicken was nicely done. No need to add more. Closing the dampers and the lid, there was still some smoke ‘leaking out’. I suspect that’s not enough air exclusion to prevent a slow smolder finishing the coals. I decided to ‘mist’ the coals to ‘shut it off’ as I was going into the house to eat… and had a nice bit of manzanita sill unburned in there ;-) Some other time I’ll see if you can stop the coals by just closing dampers and walking away.
For a $40 to $50 grill, I’m happy with it. No, I’d not plan on tossing it in the back of the pickup and driving over 100 miles of mountain roads to your fishing spot. It is not intended for rugged use. No, I’d not plan on it being around and serviceable in 5 years. Maybe not even 3. (Depends on my ambition moving it to the garage or not ;-)
I would be quite happy to buy another one, were I again in a vacation spot and needing a grill. At that price, I could use it for a week or a whole summer, place it on the “reuse free stuff” table, and be happy.
For right now, it’s on my Redwood Log Picknick Table in the front patio “play yard” (Named for the enclosed area I made for our children to play, 30 years ago… I also built a redwood swing set then, and more, now long gone…) I’m happy to do my grilling this summer out there, and leave the doves in peace to nest over the back patio. This is “lug-able” enough that should I wish to move it to the proper BBQ area on the back patio once nesting season is over, it’s an easy move.
Overall, it is like a caricature of a Real Grill. It has all the right parts. Dampers. Warming shelf. Smoke stack. Ash bin. Yet it’s dinky and portable. Yes, it’s a bit hotter on the hands when everything is 16 inches max from the coals. I’m OK with that. Heck, I might even bother to get some grilling mittens. But I didn’t need them.
Most importantly for me, I was able to do proper indirect grilling AND get that nice smoke patina on the chicken without really trying too hard. At first, some of the skin dripped chicken fat onto coals enough to flame up, and I had the lid open enough “inspecting” to let it flame. As I got used to it, closed the dampers a bit, and left the lid down; I got less ‘flame charred” edges and more of the desired “smoked and browned”. I know now to start with less direct ‘chicken over hot coals’ and more “indirect heat”. That I can do things like indirect heat, smoke control, and warming shelf, all in a cheap portable grill, that’s wonderful.
At last, gone is the frustration of muttering about wanting indirect heat on a 19 inch by 9 inch grill with a propane fire running down the middle. Gone is the “I’d like to set THIS piece somewhere cooler, but where?” Gone is the “Damn, now if I could just get the lid at the right angle to control the air” and instead I have real dampers to set.
In short: Yes, it’s a cheap BBQ, but it does all the things I want in a package that is just the right size for what I want to do. Mostly that’s cook for 2, but this would also let you cook for 4 easily, and 6 to 8 if some of them are kids wanting things like hot dogs and hamburgers instead of steaks. It claims a 14 hamburger area. I’d not want to try more than a dozen on it ( I think it would be too hard to keep them turned right and not burn one in a hot spot). Then again, if you ARE cooking a dozen burgers and a little portable is all you have, this is a LOT better than the 14 inch kettles and the 19 x 12 inch propane things.
So I’m happy with it. Not as minimal as the absolute cheap seats. Not as robust as the $100 / 50 lb jobs. But in “my niche” when at home and wanting charcoal grilled, or when in a ‘Vacation Cottage’ off somewhere for a few weeks (or months). I’d not use it for “on the road in the Subaru” – too big for that. For that I’d use a set of grill wire and the “3 rocks / found wood or charcoal” method, or just stop at rest areas with a BBQ built in. I could see loading it up for a fishing trip to ‘near by’ where it’s just me or 2 of us and lots of extra room – not needing to pack for a week. The top does latch, it isn’t that heavy, and it is portable. But it ain’t small… and that’s part of what I like about it. Room to grill, smoke, and indirect cook.