By: Max Good
GoBQ was created to offer a truly mobile grill, one you can carry on your back. Constructed of flame resistant, silicone coated, fiberglass fabric, this grill rolls up and fits in a backpack or over your shoulder with the included carrying strap. Transporting and storing a portable grill is no problem when you are traveling by car, but when you are bopping around on foot or bicycle, it can be a challenge. Weighing only 9.5 lbs and measuring a mere 15.5″ x 8.5″ x 7.5″ when rolled, this grill is mighty mobile (see below).
And when all the grilling is done, GoBQ goes wherever you do: to a game, in a train, on a plane. Oh the places you will GoBQ! The design of this grill is brilliant, but after testing it, we have a few reservations about performance.
The fiberglass fabric clam shell lid is rounded on both sides, folds down, and is held shut with two aluminum buckles.
All of the grill’s folding parts are flexible enough to fit inside the hinged lid when closed.
The hinged aluminum frame unfolds and expands to become the supportive base of the grill.
An “Ember Guard” provides a layer of protection between the base and the charcoal net.
Snapped into the base, the ember guard does get exposed to hot embers and grease fires for prolonged periods. It withstands blazing temperatures but tends to wear out faster than the grill’s other parts. Replacement guards are about $10.
WARNING: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. To test flame resistance, GoBQ says they removed the ember guard, filled the grill with Match Light Charcoal, doused it with lighter fluid and set it ablaze. With flames shooting out from under the lid, they claim a temperature probe inside the grill read 1,800°F. GoBQ reports that this test caused the handles to melt a little, but the grill was still operational.
Instead of a flat charcoal grate, GoBQ uses a lightweight stainless steel charcoal net.
The charcoal net hooks onto the four upper corners of the base frame so it becomes suspended over the ember guard.
The plated steel cooking grate measures 13″ x 13.5″ and is flexible on one side, allowing the grate to roll up for portability.
The other side of the grate is rigid. Once positioned over the four upper corners of the base, pushing down on the grate fully expands the legs for better stability.
The hinged lid (which doubles as the carrying case) fits over the base to complete the package. GoBQ remarkably transforms from a shoulder pack to a BBQ grill, but can you control the cooking temperature? Controlling temperature on charcoal grills requires tight construction and adjustable air intake and exhaust dampers: adjust oxygen flow to the fire and you control the temperature. GoBQ includes three non-adjustable air holes in the base and three in the lid on each side (see photo above). But they are not adjustable, so there is no way to regulate airflow.
Even if GoBQ had adjustable vents, its loose fitting lid would still allow large amounts of unregulated air in and out, making temperature control a challenge. The manufacturer recommends pushing down the cooking grate and side handles to fully expand and set the base, then using tongs to flatten the sides and pull out the latches. That helps a little, but there is no way to control temps on this grill other than using more or less charcoal. Click here to learn about using vents to control temperature.
The manufacturer recommends using charcoal briquets because they are easy to count and arrange in the net. Maximum load is 50 briquets. Do not use lighter fluid as it can pool at the bottom and flame up, causing the ember guard to wear out faster. Likewise, do not use a chimney starter, as dumping all that red hot charcoal into the base at once can shorten the life of the ember guard. A better, more portable method for lighting GoBQ is to simply use a couple firestarters.
We fired up 50 briquets with 2 fire starters (see photo). Note how the charcoal collects at the center of the flexible steel net, leaving wide open space all around, especially at the front and back. In effect, this reduces the overall cooking area and makes even heating a bit of a challenge. When the charcoal ashed over, we slipped on grill gloves and popped the cooking grate in place, pushing down on the grate and the two black handles to make the base as solid as possible. With a thermometer probe clipped to the center of the empty grate, we positioned the loose fitting lid on the base as best we could. For the first hour, the grill temperature hovered between 530° and 560°F. Then it began dropping steadily. Hour two, the temp was 500° to 415°F; hour three 400° to 320°F. Obviously, you can add more charcoal and keep cookin’, but we view this little grill, like many portables, as best suited for smaller foods that cook fast like burgers, sausage and chicken parts.
A full load of 1/3 lb. pre-formed burger patties shows the concentration of charcoal at the center of the charcoal net, creating a pronounced hot spot. Notice how the center burger is much more browned than those on the perimeter. Nine burgers were a bit too much and overloaded GoBQ’s 13″ x 13.5″ cooking grate.
To account for the hot spot in the center, you have to move food frequently for even cooking. By moving the meat around, all of the burgers were eventually cooked properly.
To avoid a second overload, we placed a small quantity of five 6” sausage links at the center of the grate.
Even with some breathing room around the sausages, the center hot spot remained.
By moving the sausages away from the hot center, we finished them off without too much burning and no sausage explosions. Working this grill takes some getting used to. It helps to view GoBQ as a 2-zone grill with a hot direct center cooking area and moderate indirect cooking areas at the sides, front and back. Even so, it’s a bit of stretch to unequivocally call GoBQ’s lack of adjustable airflow and fixed, 2-zone heat pattern assets. Click here to learn about the essential technique of 2-zone cooking.
With our new understanding of GoBQ’s heating pattern, we started cooking four lightly oiled and seasoned chicken thighs, skin side up, on the four corners of the grill grate, slightly away from the hot center and with the lid down. After five minutes, we lifted the lid to flip the meat and saw a grease fire on the left side.
We quickly flipped the thighs and moved them out of harm’s way. Grease fires are a common occurrence, but we suspect GoBQ may be particularly susceptible. On a typical charcoal grill, drippings fall on hot charcoal and burn up quickly. On GoBQ, drippings from foods placed away from the center collect at the bottom of the base and can cause a large grease fire.
If that collected pool of grease ignites it can be bad news. Note the flames bursting from the bottom around the charcoal bed.
Obviously, uneven heat and grease fires are undesirable, but they are not uncommon. All in all, our chicken thigh run was not bad (see above). Although we had to remove some nasty skin from the burn victim on the right, the rest of the chicken thighs were crispy and delicious.
After cooking sausage and chicken it was time to shake GoBQ out and roll it up. We removed the cooking grate and shook out the ash and embers. Our GoBQ was gunky and dusty from the greasy ash.
Even when this unit is new, rolling up the various parts into GoBQ’s lid is a tight fit. After grilling, the accumulated grease and ash made shutting the two buckles even more difficult. Be sure to brush and shake out as much junk as possible before packing up. When you get back home, GoBQ recommends cleaning with a garden hose to remove light debris, and dish soap with warm water for heavy, greasy accumulations. Many other portable charcoal grills do not require frequent cleanings.
Most people don’t need GoBQ’s extreme portability. For them, a Weber Smokey Joe Charcoal Grill works better at a fraction of the cost. However, if you love the concept, and would find the exceptional mobility of value, you may be willing to work around the downsides identified in our tests.
GoBQ is a one of a kind grill. All who’ve seen mine, or even heard my descriptions of it, were struck by the unique, inventive design. GoBQ is more convenient and less conspicuous to schlepp around than the limited selection of small, metal charcoal grills that fold-up like a briefcase. Plus, it has a lid which, though loose fitting, does hold in some heat and protect foods from the elements. It’s not for everyone, but if you want it come and get it.
One year warranty. Available in black or red.
We thank GoBQ Grills for providing our test model.
Chicago’s own Eric Goeken and Todd Zaroban concocted GoBQ Grills. A unique concept for an extremely portable charcoal grill made of silicone fabric and flexible parts that roll up and snap shut. After a successful crowd funding campaign, they jumped into the portable grill market with their one of a kind cooker.
Published On: 7/14/2018 Last Modified: 2/26/2021
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