How many grills have we owned? Well, there was that notebook-sized hibachi that sat on the floor of the wooden back porch of a Chicago-style six flat; it’s surprising a stray spark didn’t start the Great Chicago Fire of 1977. After moving to the ‘Ville there must have been a couple of journeyman barbecues until the coming of the gas grills in, what, the late eighties? My mother bought us two, which will bring us to the mid nineties. Since then: a cylindrical smoker/grill combo and three Weber knockoffs. If you don’t cover your grill for a couple of Illinois winters you deserve the rusty gut bucket that emerges from the snowdrifts in late March. This March our grill had lost both feet to, the wheels were creaky and it was time to reequip ourselves for the summer.
The biennial debate began. We don’t smoke (food,) we don’t throw those incredible cookouts for fifty that my friend Dean does, we don’t cook carcasses bigger than a spatchcocked chicken. We don’t cook things long, slow and smoky with much rearrangement of coals. We always think we will, that this year we’ll become Grillmasters, but …
That’s not what happens. We grill a few pizzas a summer, lots of vegetables and little bits of meat and poultry — with the exception of the pizza, pretty much what we cooked on the original hibachi. Our summer entertainments rarely exceed six people. We loathe replacing tanks of propane and never found a gas grill that got hot enough for us. I’m shy about admitting this, but the favorite grill we’ve ever owned was the original hibachi, even though I had to cook on my knees while disco pounded from the neighbor’s radio.
I think this goofy little number might just be my new favorite. I call it The Grill from Outer Space, because with a couple of tinfoil antennas,and my daughter’s Lego spacemen in the garage I think I could video a cheesy sixties Space Opera using it as a prop Sputnik.
It’s fourteen inches in diameter and about twenty inches tall. Cheap: 14.95. Cheerful? I think it’s adorable. It has clips that hold the top to the base, so we can trundle it about to parks and picnics. It uses amusingly little charcoal,gets very hot very fast and stays hot enough to char a rare skirt steak or sizzle up some chicken thighs. It’s big enough to accommodate a pizza, a bunch of burgers a flattened chicken, a few pork tenderloins and variety of vegetables — not at the same time of course.
It’s so cuddly and user-friendly that we’ve grilled more times this week than we did all last summer. And hey — I can pick it up and overwinter it on a shelf in the garage. Grill has met girl, and he’s her hunka burning love.