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Cyndi Allison - Grill Girl

Weber Smokey Joe Tailgate Grill
Travel Grill Review

Smokey Joe grill at Buffett Concert
Smokey Joe at Buffett Concert

If you want to take your family barbecue on the road, then the Weber Smokey Joe is a great little tailgate grill. I’ve had my road trip grill for over ten years now, and I loved it so much I got my parents a Smokey Joe too.

Why the Weber Smokey Joe?

There are lots of mini grills on the market. I had a few of the cheaper ones before I got the Smokey Joe. They never lasted long, and they were difficult to cook on.

The Weber travel grill in a kettle grill, and kettle is great for charcoal grilling. The heat is both over and under the food. This means more even cooking and a better smoked taste. This shape is also easier as far as regulating the temperature. The vents help with the heat regulation.

Parts of the Weber Travel Grill

The main part of the grill is one single bucket piece which is important. The more pieces that have to be put together, the more weak spots you have in the grill. This is mainly one solid, hard body which will last.

The legs keep the kettle up off the ground. These are very short and only lift the grill up eight inches or so. It’s good to have a camp chair when cooking on the Weber Smokey Joe, because you’ll be closer to the ground and to the grilling food.

On the top, you have the carrying handle. It is made of porcelain and is very durable. It also stays pretty cool. I’m a real stickler for using gloves when cooking indoors or outdoors. The boys grab the handle all the time though, so it does not get very hot.

Inside the grill you have a lower grate, which is where you put the charcoal. This lifts the coals up and allows the heat to circulate around the food and into the kettle for the smoked taste. This small grate piece is very solid metal and holds up. We’re still using the same one after ten years. They do sell replacement parts at the Weber store online if needed.

On the top of the Weber kettle tailgate grill you have a vent. This lets you open and shut off the air flow. Fire needs air, so you get a good flow and high heat with everything open. If your fire gets too hot, you can adjust. You can even shut both off (top and bottom) to cap the flow of air if you get flames and need to cut them off. This is much easier than throwing on a cup of water like with some of the older charcoal grills.

Quality Materials and Workmanship Make This a Better Tailgate Grill

The Weber grill is a high-grade US steel. US steel is solid and holds up. Grills made of cheaper steels or thick aluminum (YIKES) are not going to last.

If you look at the finish on the Weber you will see a nice shine and deep color. That comes from the porcelain enamel finish which is baked on rather than sprayed on. Spray on finishes wash off after a few times and then you have rust on your grill. Cheap finishes also flake and fade. You pay less for spray on, but you have to replace that old rusty, flaky, faded grill fairly often as well. I prefer a nice finish like the one used by Weber.

Ash Catcher - None on my Older Model

One thing that I miss on this old travel size is the ash tray on the bottom. The newer tailgate Smokey Joes and the larger Weber models have a round tray to catch ashes that fall out. I like having the ash catcher especially since this is a charcoal model.

We now have a second Weber Smokey Joe, and it does have the ash catcher. The trade off there is that the new one does not have the handle like the old one. My old one has two metal pieces and clamp together up top with a wooden handle.

My son is in college and was asking about one of the tailgaters. I'll be curious to see which one he decided to take - the old one with the top clamp handle or the new one with the bottom ash catcher.

How Do You Get a Hot Grill Home?

I’ve had several people ask how you grill and then get the hot grill back home. The first tip I give is to take the lid off and open the bottom vents when the food is done. This allows the charcoal to burn off hot and fast.

In addition, carry a galloon of tap water. Even if you think the coals are burned off, pour on some water. Yes. It’s a little messy. It’s better than catching the car on fire though.

Also, be sure to carry a big black trash bag. Put the grill back together (top on) and stick it in the trash bag. This keeps your vehicle from getting messy. You can clean up beforehand in some areas, but it’s hard to get a grill really clean especially on the road.

How Much Food Can I Cook on a Little Grill

To give you a general idea what you can cook on this model at a little over 14 inches wide:

-3 to 4 regular size Rib Eye steaks
-6 hamburgers
-10 hot dogs
-4 short skewers
-one good size meal for a family of four

Sometimes we cook hash browns first and then keep them wrapped tight in tin foil while we cook the meat. Other times, we bring cold sides.

Add a Chimney Starter for Easier Road Coals

Do consider getting a chimney starter. This really helps when you’re on the road. Well, it helps at home too. You’ll have perfect charcoal ready to cook every time.

More Tips on Tailgate Cooking

If you’re going to grill on the road, be sure to check out my Tailgating article. I have a check list there. It’s easy to forget things, and when you’re in the middle of a parking lot or field, you can’t just run in the kitchen and grab what you need. On the other hand, most folks will loan you whatever you left at home.

If you have kids, then you may want to take along a hand churn ice cream machine and try out my Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream. That keeps the kids busy, and homemade ice cream is fabulous especially after a good grilled meal.


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