Bottom line: I have never worked with a finer charcoal grill. They may be out there, but I’ve never encountered them.
Please do not confuse this superb cooker with the Easy-Bake Oven toy for kids! This is a real grownup serious charcoal cooker. There is nothing you can’t do with this grill and it deserves a place in the back yard of every serious outdoor BBQ cook. A friend calls it the Swiss Army knife of grills.
The manufacturers sent me their Hasty Bake Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill to test in July 2010. It has 522 square inches of main grate cooking surface, and 283 square inches on an upper grate. My favorite feature is the adjustable height charcoal grate (#6 in the illustration below). It moves up and down with a crank allowing me to lower the coal grate, push the coals to the right side, fire them up, start a big hunk of beef like a rib roast on the left side of the food grate, then, when I get the meat’s interior temp to say 115°F, I can slide it over the coals, crank them up to right below the meat, and brown the exterior as the interior rises to 125°F. This lets it work like a Santa Maria grill, perfect for Tri-Tip, or a closed convection roaster perfect for turkey or chicken. It is very easy to set up for 2-Zone or Indirect cooking and smoke roasting or you can just crank it all the way up to sear a steak in a hurry. Remember the heat diminishes rapidly the further the food is from the coals. This system gives you very good temp control.
(1) Bi-Metal Thermometer, (2) Hood, (3) The cooking grates are angled towards the center, and a V-shaped channel ducts much of the grease to a disposable cup on the outside, (4) A large side door that allows you access to the charcoal during the cook, (5) A removable heat deflector that goes between the coals and the cooking grates for better indirect cooking, (6) large, easy to remove charcoal tray, (7) Crank to raise and lower the coal tray, (8) Adjustable Damper, (9) Slide out ash pan for rapid cleanup.
A removable stainless steel work table runs the full length of the front. Gourmet models have an upper rack for cooking or keeping food warm, and a glass window so you can see your food without lifting the bi-fold door on the fixed hood.
In addition to fine searing and indirect convection cooking, the Hasty Bake is a good smoker. It does a fine job of circulating smoke. In fact, it is almost too good. You will need much less wood than you think and if you don’t cut back, you could easily over smoke. Yes, it does leak a lot of smoke, but it also retains and circulates a lot, so you need very little wood.
So far my only criticisms are relatively minor. I have had problems getting it down under 250°F to 225°F my favorite smoke roasting temp, but with practice and precise measuring of coals, it can be done. As with every grill that uses a bimetal thermometer, this one is wildly inaccurate according to benchmark tests I have done with a thermocouple. So make sure you get a good digital grill thermometer to get the most out of this otherwise fine cooker. Also, the bi-fold door on the Gourmet will knock plates and wine glasses off the front shelf if you’re not careful opening and closing it. Maybe this is just a personal problem?
You will need the optional cover because rain can get in, and you should also get heavy duty gloves because the knob on the side door gets hot. The best way to light the coals is with the charcoal tray and the ash tray sticking out the side door, and you will need gloves or a stick to push it back into position. You will not need a chimney to start coals. You can mound the coals in the charcoal tray and ignite them from below.
Otherwise, fit and finish are very good on the Gourmet. I have not tested the others, so I cannot speak for them. All models have a 5 year warranty on workmanship and parts, a 1 year warranty on finish, and a 10 year warranty on stainless steel components. Some models are available in all stainless, and some are both stainless and black powder coated. A rotisserie is available, and, get this, the Gourmet can run two rotisseries at once!
Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill
Made in USA:
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
Grill, Smoker, Combination Grill and Smoker
522 square inches
Mid-Size(about 25 burgers)
283 square inches
Founded in Tulsa, OK, by Grant “Hasty” Hastings in 1948, 15 years before the unfortunately named kids’ toy and three years before the Weber Kettle were invented, the Hasty Bake was probably the first home grill with a hood, and it incorporated innovations that are just being rediscovered by other grill makers today.
Their grills are unique and built to last. In fact they offer renovation because so many Hasty Bakes are passed down from one generation to the next. “We can repair any grill from an original 1948 model to a recent model”, boasts their website.
Hasty Bake offers parts, seasonings and sauces, apparel and various accessories. Sales are from a limited number of independent dealers, Amazon and a few other online stores, and direct.
Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.