The Cobb Grill is much more than a grill. It’s a grill and an oven, with a sauté pan, chicken rack, flattop plate, and (optional) rotisserie that packs like a stack of Tetris blocks into a package you can easily carry over your shoulder.
Don’t let the grill in the name fool you, the Cobb is a summer cooking extravaganza in a bag and well worth the money if you want to up your camp cooking game.
It’s been six years since I had an oven. Technically, the 1969 RV I call home does have an oven. It just doesn’t work, which makes me effectively ovenless. In the past six years, I’ve compensated by using a waffle iron as an oven and learned to cook with a Dutch oven over coals. The Dutch oven experience has given me a new appreciation for older methods of cooking. That’s partly why I jumped at the opportunity when Cobb Grills reached out about trying its cooker.
While the Cobb is much more than a grill, I understand why the name is necessary in the US, where we never see people cooking over the kinds of small clay grill/ovens the Cobb cooker was inspired by. The Cobb hails from South Africa and was originally made of clay (like most rural stoves around the world) to burn corn cobs (hence the name). That initial design grew into the Eco Cobb, an all-metal stove based on the clay version.
Fast-forward some years, and the Cobb has evolved into a lightweight cooker that packs up ingeniously to give you a portable cooking device that can grill, bake, sauté, smoke, fry, and boil in a package that’s smaller than most portable grills.
Cooking on the Cobb
There are several models of the Cobb. I tested the Premiere Air Kitchen in Box, which costs $330 and includes some extras, like a roast rack, griddle, grill grid, frying pan, wok, and chicken stand. I found the Premiere Air to be just big enough to feed my family of five, though things did get crowded at times. Cobb also makes the Supreme ($290), which lacks some of the accessories of the Air but is larger and would be a better pick if you’re looking to cook for more than four on a regular basis.
The design is similar in all the models. There’s an outer wire shell that holds the “moat,” which catches fat drippings or can be filled with liquids (wine for example) to season whatever you’re cooking. I often threw some potatoes in the moat and let them cook in the fat of whatever was grilling above. The results were outstanding. Just inside the moat is a fuel basket that holds your briquettes and directs the heat upward to whichever accessory you’re cooking with.
At first glance, I was ready to hate on the Cobb because it arrived with a box of custom charcoal, and there is nothing I dislike in a grill so much as custom charcoal. What a blatant money grab. Fortunately, Cobb’s custom charcoal called Cobblestones—bonus points for that pun—aren’t necessary. After a couple of test cooks with the Cobblestones, I did everything else over briquettes or coals scooped from a fire. It is a little trickier to get the heat precisely the way you want it with coals, but I found briquettes worked fine and were simple to use.
To be honest, I didn’t “grill” that much on the Cobb. It works as a grill, but it lacks one component I consider essential: direct flame. A lack of direct flame eliminates flare-ups and smokiness (the Cobb is mostly smoke-free), but you don’t get that nice sear and flavor of cooking over flame. To me that’s fine. I already have a portable grill I love. What I don’t have is an oven, so I did a lot of baking, roasting, and even sautéing on the Cobb. I made lamb and feta flatbread, roasted whole chickens, baked cobblers and crisps with fresh summer fruits, and even tried stir-frying up some yakisoba. All of which is to say, the Cobb makes an excellent outdoor stove and oven that features an OK grill.