I’ve talked about the Bubba Keg Convection Grill before, but I’m finally getting my review up!
I know it’s been a while, but I wanted to give it a good run before my initial ‘verdict’.
The packaging was pretty well done. Everything was put in well, in one big box. The instructions were actually very clear, and assembly was easy to do. It does take two people to put it together, just because of the size and weight of the parts. All the parts were there and easy to identify, and, out of all the things of this sort I’ve ever put together, the Bubba Keg was the easiest to put together. Even things like screwing in the handles were easy, and the engineering of the unit allowed parts to fit easily together without confusion of fighting with the parts. In other words, I didn’t stand around swearing while trying to put it all together!
The handles even had the bottom marked so I didn’t put them on upside down.
Things that stood out right away were:
- The double-walled steel construction ends up being a bit lighter than ceramic units of similar size.
- The gasket was made of oven ‘rope’, and seemed very substantial.
- I really liked the cast iron grate. It’s well designed, with two spots to also use the secondary grate. More on this later.
- The snap-on shelves are nice, but could be bigger. It is nice to have someplace to put trays, plates, etc.
- I almost didn’t install the hooks on one of the shelves, thinking I wouldn’t use them. Instead, I find I’m hanging the multi-tool or tongs on them all the time.
- The multi-tool is great. It lifts the grate easily, cleans the grate well, and makes adjusting the damper on top simple to do without burning myself. It also cleans out the ash from the bottom of the cooker easily.
- The base is basically a dolly, so moving the cooker around is really easy to do by one person. The base is very heavy duty, too.
- The worst thing I found was that the cooking chamber wobbled on the base. After talking to Drew with Bubba Keg, he sent out a couple Bubba Wedges, which are simple plastic wedges with fit between the unit and the base, and took the wobble out very easily. I was also told this is already fixed on new units.
Let’s be honest here: from the look of the cooker, it’s obviously meant to work along the lines of the Big Green Egg, Primo or Kamado smokers that are out there in ceramic. There are some differences that I think are an attempt to improve on the ceramic design. According to the company, the double steel wall with insulation insulates better than ceramic, which means the unit should need even less charcoal to cook. Also, the firebox has a similar grate at the bottom for the charcoal to sit on, but there are also holes in the steel above where the charcoal sits to allow better airflow. I have to admit that, so far, I’ve been surprised at how little charcoal is needed even to grill. I’m comparing to an XL Big Green Egg, so it’s not a completely fair comparison.
Cooking on the Bubba Keg
As I mentioned, not much charcoal is needed. The documentation does a good job of showing how to load the cooking chamber with charcoal. And please only use natural charcoal; briquettes will result in way too much ash!
The charcoal is mounded a bit in the bottom, leaving the holes in the steel above the charcoal exposed. I tried cooking on the Bubba Keg intentionally covering the holes, and I noticed a big difference. With the vents wide open, I couldn’t get temps up over 300 degrees. When I removed a bit of the charcoal, temps shot right up.
I really like the cast iron grate. The Big Green Egg has cast iron grates you can buy for their cookers, but the Bubba Keg comes standard with one. The grate slats are triangular in shape, with the ‘point’ at the top. What this does is give really great grill marks! The grate can be set in two different positions, and I’ve used both. Obviously, the closer to the fire, the hotter things are, but the fire can be controlled by how much air is allowed in.
In addition to the main grate, there’s a secondary grate that is on a single post to the side. This is a great grate! When using it, the grate is just above the lip of the cooker and can be easily pivoted out of the way to allow access to the primary grate. I really like this feature; I can have a steak searing while asparagus is more gently grilling above, or keep pork chops warm while grilling onions. And I can get to the food grilling below easily by just moving the top grate off to the side.
Conclusion (so far)
So far, I’ve mostly grilled on the Bubba Keg, though I have done pork loin at lower temps. I think as a grill, it’s an excellent cooker. Drew, the product manager, told me they’re also working on accessories like a heat diffuser to allow less direct heat for low and slow barbecuing. I think, as is, the unit would have no problem with pulled pork or beer can chicken. I don’t think I’d use it to barbecue brisket, as the direct heat might be too much.
I love my Big Green Egg, but I am finding a I also like this more and more as I use it. Recently, the company informed me that the price has dropped to $599, which means, new, it’s $200 less than a large Big Green Egg. If I were in the market for this type of cooker (and I think this is the most versatile style of cooker available), I’d be hard pressed to not choose the Bubba Keg Convection Grill. With the accessories that I know the company is working to get to market, the Bubba Keg grill is even more attractive.
The final bit that makes me recommend the Bubba Keg Grill without reservation was my conversation with Drew. It was obvious to me that Bubba Keg is really standing behind this cooker and isn’t just doing something to see if they can make a buck. The people involved seem really excited about the Bubba Keg grill and are working to improve it. That kind of backing makes me think the grill is going to great support. And I already know it can grill some great food!
The thing I haven’t tried yet is… I haven’t put it on the hitch on our Rav4 to show its portability, but I’ll trying it soon! It looks like a great way to haul the Bubba Keg grill around. Just attach the hitch rail to the receiver, slide the grill in place, lock it down, and drive off!
Home Depot carries the Bubba Keg Convection Grill, which retails for $599.