By Greg Illes
I’m a compulsive fixer and tweaker, and I will confess to also being a BBQ fan. Not a fanatic — I don’t have a fancy apron or wall full of tools and sauces. But I love that charred, smokey steak or drumstick hot off the grill. I can usually be coaxed to cook up some savory stuff in almost any kind of weather.
So it’s no surprise that I am captivated by BBQ grills. My last home project was to build in a 42-inch stainless beast on my deck. But, alas, such a monster is useless away from home, traveling in my RV.
For RVing, I simply MUST have my grill — a propane unit for easy deployment and clean up. I’m definitely not a BBQ purist; I’m more of a convenience kind of guy.
So, for many years now, I’ve shopped and researched, bought and owned an array of portable BBQ grills to accompany our many RV excursions. As my wife will readily testify, I’m one of those guys who can’t leave “okay” alone — a constant seeker of greater perfection. Each BBQ would get some special attention, a modified propane feed, a special stand, whatever. But inevitably they all ended up with “fatal” imperfections that I couldn’t redesign or fix.
One grill didn’t fit well in my storage compartment. I bought another that turned out to be awkward to clean. Yet another heated up unevenly, the next was really poorly made — I was getting really frustrated.
Finally, I bought an expensive stainless-steel model with a cast-iron heat spreader, and I thought I’d found that elusive “perfect” grill. I used that grill for a couple of years, but it also had a nagging flaw. It was heavy, over thirty pounds, and dragging it out of a low-slung cargo bay was threatening my aging back.
ALL THIS TIME I’d been cooking up pretty decent grillings with my sequential collection of “deficient” BBQs. But no matter — as any perfectionist knows, there’s satisfaction and joy to be found in both the quest and the prize.
Of course, my long-suffering wife simply rolled her eyes (she’s very good at that) anytime I complained of the latest deficiency. Which simply made me struggle all the more to explain why we needed a different grill — again.
When the pricey grill started to wear out, I once again Internet-ed for a new grill. It had to be compact, lightweight, even-heating, not too expensive, wind-tolerant, and so forth. Impossible? Never give up.
Currently, I’m the happy (for now) owner of one of the cheapest BBQ’s out there, the kind with two halves that clam-shell together. Flaw #1 was a loose handle that got very hot. That was an easy fix with some hardwood and long bolts, and now it’s cool to the touch and solid. The unit is light, cooks well, and doesn’t seem to mind a stiff breeze across the campground.
I know myself well enough to predict that something will turn up to invalidate this grill, too. I just have to use it for a while to find out what’s wrong with it.