Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Long term test of our Cobb BBQ - a mariners dream?

A couple of years ago at the IWA festival we bought a Cobb barbecue system. I don't know if you've ever seen one but here's a picture I borrowed from their web site (I don't suppose they'll complain as I'm giving them a write up).
The Cobb web site claims that the product is a "mariner's dream"(!), so I thought people might be interested to hear how it performs in general and on a boat in particular.

The first thing to say is that it doesn't perform at all like a barbecue and this takes a bit of getting used to. Normal barbecues cook very fast and tend to burn stuff if you aren't careful. The Cobb seems to cook a lot slower when using charcoal and when we first got it we were not impressed. Bits of chicken took forever to cook through. The only benefit being that they didn't burn so at least they were cooked the same all through. The big improvement came when we abandoned using charcoal and got some of their special Cobblestones which are thick discs of compressed coconut fibre.

These Cobblestones are quite easy to light, they burn much hotter are are ready to cook over in just a few minutes. Now we get stuff cooked much faster, but still without burning as dripping fat does not create flames or smoke in the Cobb. Instead it just drips through to the moat in the bowl below where you can put some parboiled spuds and you end up with nice roasties. In many ways the Cobb performs more like an oven than a barbie.

Because the food doesn't burn easily, you can chargrill more delicate stuff like asparagus or thin slices of courgette or red pepper which come out lovely. Sausages and burgers get cooked through without being blackened on the outside. The size of the grill is not all that big so if you have a gang to feed you'll have to do it in shifts, but that's how we tend to have barbies anyway. One of the Cobblestones stays hot for a couple of hours.

What we haven't yet tried is roasting a chicken or baking bread - both of which are supposed to be possible.

Now why is the Cobb particularly handy on a boat? Well the first thing is that the external part of it never gets hot. While it is cooking you can actually pick it up with bare hands! So if you don't have a bit of bankside to use, you can cook on the back deck or the well deck or even the boat roof! Or if the ground is muddy the Cobb will be quite safe on a table. It will not burn the surface you put it on - honestly! The burning fuel is low down inside the pot and the whole thing is very stable. Also it makes hardly any smoke after the first two minutes, and you have to cook with the lid on so it doesn't spit either. Secondly it is easy to clean out and stores cleanly inside its zipped carrying bag. The outside of the base and also the lid are stainless steel and don't get dirty at all in use.

However don't try to use it inside the boat because when we experimented with this it set of our carbon monoxide alarm albeit only at a low level.

Downsides: - doesn't fold down in any way, the plate is a bit small for a family meal, you need to readjust your brain to think of it more as an oven, our experience with charcoal briquettes was disappointing, and cost. The non stick cooking plate still tends to stick on some things. We got an extra roasting rack thrown in which we ought to use but never have. The Cobb is expensive - 90 quid or more!! The carrying bag is an extra we got thrown in as part of a deal at the IWA but normally costs another £15.75.

Worth it? It is very well made and I suspect it will last a very long time if looked after because most of the parts are stainless steel.. Once you get the hang of it you can do very nice food on it and it's a lot cleaner and less smoky than other BBQs. I wouldn't call it a must, but if you get one and learn to use it properly it'll eventually earn its keep I reckon.

I'd be interested to see if anyone else has tried one and how they got on.


Halfie said...

Yes, but what does the food taste like? Does it taste barbecued? I thought the burning fat was an essential ingredient!

Neil Corbett said...

Hmmm, good question. No I don't think it tastes barbecued really. Rather more like if you had done it in the oven. I suppose it's the lack of smoke. At least it doesn't taste of charcoal!

nb.bobcat said...

Ooh so pleased you have done that write up - very useful. I have planned my boat building around the fact that I don't need an oven on the boat as there will be other alternatives. eg Top of chilli penguin stove, the gas hob, a combi microwave and the Cobb is one of the alternatives that I will be using. Mum gave me one for Xmas and it is waiting for the boat to be finished.

JR said...

We saw the Cobb at the St.Ives festival and have used it on our boat. Yes, it's very good on a cruiser stern and, as you say, it doesn't get hot (on the outside!) at all. We've had very good results using briquettes rather than lumpwood charcoal for some reason. Thoroughly recommend it and agree that the only real downside is that it doesn't 'fold down' at all so it takes up quite a bit of space whwn stored in the narrowboat.

VallyP said...

Sounds like a handy all-in-one, ideal for travelling, but not a barbecue replacement. Charcoal grills have their very own flavour.

Anonymous said...

I've had one for several years now on my sailboat in Key West and your assessment is spot-on on all counts. It is no ordinary grill and takes some practice. I am still looking where I can buy the rail mount adapter kit I saw on line but could not find here in Amerika.