Weber Smokey Joe Portable Charcoal Grills Review

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Smokey Joe Charcoal Grills

The black porcelain enameled lid and base of Weber's Smokey Joe and Smokey Joe Premium Portable Charcoal Grills has the same tight construction and durable coating you find on Weber's big kettles. Both have rust free aluminum dampers for air and heat control. The 14.5"diameter plated steel cooking grates provide 165 square inches of cook surface.

The standard model has a small aluminum disc under the bottom damper that serves as an ash catcher. Both weigh only 9.5 pounds. The Premium (shown below) doesn't have dampers under the coal tray so air flow is not quite as good, but if you're looking for a small portable to grill burgers and hot dogs, consider spending ten bucks more for the Prmium because it has a convenient "Tuck and Carry Lid Holder" for easy transport.

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Let's debunk a myth: The parabolic shape of the Weber BBQ Kettle is not a more efficient heat reflector than other shapes. By far the vast majority of the heat is radiated directly from the surface of the glowing coals with some more reflected from the sides. Very little heat is being reflected off the curved bottom of the bowl. There is a solid barrier in the way: The bed of coals. Any heat that hits the bottom of the kettle just bounces back into the coal pile. So the parabolic shape of the kettle is no more efficient than a square box.

Nothing fancy, just a small version of the grill that made Weber famous.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$35
Primary Function: 
Grill
Tailgater
Fuel: 
Charcoal
Primary Capacity: 
147 square inches
Made in the USA: 
Yes
Review Method:

Cooked On It

We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.

Weber-Stephen

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Weber-Stephen is one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of BBQ equipment and related accessories in the world. Weber grills and smokers cook beautifully and have great features that are clever, effective and easy to use. As popularity and demand for BBQ gear grows worldwide, Weber continues to earn their long standing reputation for quality, durability and outstanding customer service and support, (7 days a week from 7am to 9pm CST), in an increasingly competitive environment. Even in this crowded marketplace, many consumers are still willing to pay more for the Weber name and they are rarely disappointed. They make a variety of cookers and smokers. Their iconic black charcoal kettles are known throughout the world. Indeed Weber is expanding globally.

Weber-Stephen was family owned since it was founded in 1952 by George Stephen. At the end of 2010 the Stephen family sold a majority stake to Chicago investment group BDT Capital Partners. In 2012, Weber settled a class action suit out of court regarding their use of the phrase, "Made in USA". Weber previously qualified the "Made in USA" statement by specifying their products are assembled in the USA with some components that are sourced globally. Here is an excerpt from Weber's statement "Weber believes that because all Weber grills and the disputed accessories are designed and engineered in the USA, and all grills save for one line [Spirit]* are manufactured and assembled in the USA using component parts primarily made in the USA, it did nothing wrong and therefore has valid defenses to plaintiff's claims. The court has not held a trial or ruled in favor of either party on any disputed issues. Weber and the plaintiff have agreed to settle the matter to avoid the costs of continued litigation." As a result of this suit, Weber can no longer claim to be made in America.

Things change, but we believe Weber's commitment to quality and innovation has not.

The biggest barrier for many folks is price. Webers are not cheap, but when you consider that they last decades, the price is easy to justify. Many some cheap grills fall apart after three years or so.

Our main complaint: All Webers have the obligatory bi-metal dial thermometer in the hood that gives you a ballpark reading of what the temperature is high above the meat. Since we cook on the grates, though, it's always better to bring your own digital thermometer and place a probe there. It would be nice if they would go digital in the digital age and it appears with their acquisition of iGrill digital thermometers, this is begining to change.

*At the very end of 2016 Weber introduced their new line of Genesis II gas grills to replace the popular Genesis series. Genesis II is made in China. Genesis II LX is still made in Palatine, IL.

Weber Charcoal Grills

In 2015 Weber changed the names of several popular charcoal grills and added a few new features. Don't worry though, they are still the iconic kettles you grew up with. These classic grills have played a big part in BBQ history and helped spread the joy of outdoor cooking across America and beyond. The 22.5" kettle is by far the most popular backyard grill in the world for under a hundred dollars. The body and lid are pressed from solid sheets of steel so there are no welds to rust, and coated with a durable powder coated baked on porcelain enamel that lasts for decades. The lower intake vents double as an ash collection system and the three legs with two wheels make rolling it around a snap. It is lightweight, there are few parts, and simplicity reigns. The lids fit tightly so oxygen control, and therefore heat control, is very good. And, with the exception of the Ranch Kettle, they are inexpensive.

AmazingRibs.com science advisor, Dr. Greg Blonder, observes, "Most people believe the Weber is a parabolic reflector, focusing heat emitted by the coals directly on the grill. A parabolic reflector is only effective when the heat source is tiny, intense and located at the focal point. This is not true in the case of the Weber, where the heat source is a sheet of coals spread over a large area. On the other hand, the Weber gets many things right. While the parabola won't create a beam of infra-red energy, the high almost vertical side walls reflect the infra-red image of the coals from side to side- like images of your head pinging back and forth between two mirrors at the barbershop. So this 'reflection gallery effect' does increase the heat intensity a bit compared to cooking over an open pit, where heat emitted to the sides is lost. The system is efficient, burning a minimum number of briquets during cooking." Probably no other single invention has influenced the American diet more since the invention of the electric refrigerator.

Weber Charcoal Grills are offered in four basic configurations: the small, portable Smokey Joe Series, the larger One-Touch kettles on three legs, the Performer Series mounted on carts and the oversize Ranch Kettle. They also offer three models of the popular Weber Smokey Mountain smokers. In 2016 they introduced Weber Summit Charcoal Grills, multifunction cookers that are effective smokers and grills under one hood.

Weber Portable Charcoal Series

We're talking about Smokey Joe, the mini-Weber kettles that are portable, inexpensive and work great for small capacity, straightforward grilling. These popular little cookers have similar design and construction to full-size kettles: dampers on the bottom and top, coupled with tight construction, provide good air control and thus good heat control. The kettle is solid although the legs are lightweight. Great for picnics, tailgating, camping and small spaces like an apartment. If you plan on moving your Smokey Joe often, go for the Gold or Jumbo models that have a metal arm that snaps the lid shut for easy transport.

 

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Max Good

As AmazingRibs.com's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, Max Good is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max loves barbecue so much that he took his barbecue sauce recipes, had them bottled, and now sells them around the country.

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