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~ Rotigrill Compact~ The mini me of rotisserie BBQs! ~
Having suggested the Rotigrill compact BBQ as a review subject quite some time ago, along with its super sized big brother, both of which I have had experience of I now feel that with summer on the way there is no better time to review this small yet usable charcoal BBQ. Whilst this type of BBQ is not all that widely used here in the UK, in some areas of the med it is THE must have BBQ item that will ensure your BBQ'd kebabs and rotisserie meat is cooked to perfection. Having had one of these as something we used to use for smaller BBQs I can honestly say that whilst this is a compact BBQ it really does have plenty to offer. What this BBQ lacks in stylish looks it more than makes up for in being able to produce wonderful food time and time again, with the only real downside of the model being that if you leave this out uncovered during wet weather, it can and will rust quickly making its useful life much shorter than it should be.
~A quick tour around the main features~
The main body of the BBQ is made from unpainted galvanized steel which does give this a rather industrial look and feel that may be a little less attractive to the more style conscious BBQ chef. I would say that in defence of this BBQ, you really should not be put off by the simple finish it has. I have found this BBQ is able to produce succulent well cooked food each and every time and with a little practice even an inexperienced chef can put this BBQ to good use. The easy to clean charcoal tray (where the BBQ hot coals go) is roughly 45cm long x 30cm wide, so it really is very compact in size but still works well for smaller BBQ meals. The over all height of top of the tray is around 55cm meaning that you do need to bend a little when using the BBQ to cook with, although I have found this is not a problem.
With this model you get a total of 7 easy to clean small sized, wooden handled, stainless steel kebab skewers, along with a further 2 larger stainless steel rotisserie skewers. Whilst the words 'stainless steel skewers' do make these seem very low maintenance, I feel I must say that these skewers do need a little TLC if they are to remain rust free and ready for use. I have found that the best way to deal with them is to clean them with fresh hot soapy water before use, then cut half a lemon and run the end of the skewer through that, so as to ensure that each skewer is nice and clean with no nasty metallic taste left on your freshly cooked BBQ food. You will also need to repeat the washing process after use of course and my top tip for keeping the freshly washed skewers rust free is to dry them really well and store them in dry conditions. The wooden handles don't tend to crack or become warped over time, but care should be taken so as not to get these any where near the hot coals when using them to cook with as they can burn. As with the metal parts of the skewers the handles should be washed and dried well after use.
~Using the BBQ~
In order to get both the small sized and large sized skewers turning whilst your food is cooking to perfection you do to use need both the rotisserie and kebab drives which this model has. Along with these there is the bonus of an additional full length stainless steel grill fitting that fits on top of the charcoal tray. I feel that whilst the grill is useful at times the main beauty of this type of BBQ is the fact that the skewers rotate during cooking to produce evenly cooked food, so I haven't found this to be as much use as it may be for other BBQ chefs who prefer to stand and turn their BBQ food manually during cooking. You cannot use both the skewers and the grill at the same time either which may be an issue for some, although you can use both the smaller and larger rotary skewers at the same time if you need to.
If using both smaller and larger skewers at the same time you will need to manually adjust the height of where they sit to get best use from the hot charcoal you are using to cook with and I have found it is easy enough to make this adjustment prior to setting the fully loaded skewers in place. You will need to use at least one battery powered motor with this BBQ if wanting to make use of the rotary grill feature and will need both of the motors that come with this BBQ if using both larger and smaller skewers at the same time. This will allow you to have 2 sets of BBQ food cooking at the same time making best use of the hot charcoal you are using to cook with.
The 2 1.5v battery motors you get with the BBQ are very easy to use as they simply sit in place in pre formed cut outs on the BBQ frame. You just need to slot them in place then twist the motor switch on and watch them set to work turning the skewers and cooking your food evenly and smoothly. You will of course need to ensure that you switch your battery motor off after use as the batteries will run down too quickly otherwise and I would advise that you store your motors in a dry place after use so as to avoid them corroding where they connect to the actual battery. If you get fed up with having to replace the batteries you can opt for a mains powered motor if wanted, although these are more bulky and less easy to transport as they are fully wired.
In use this BBQ is very easy to maintain as long as you make sure that you always store it out of the rain once it has been cleaned after use. You will need to allow any hot coals to cool fully before sweeping up the left over residue with a hand held dustpan and brush, which I feel is the best way to clean the cooking tray. We had this smaller sized model for some time as well as the larger sized model, with both working really well as we always put it away after use and never left it out in wet weather. After lending this small sized BBQ to a family member last summer, who left it out uncovered in all weathers over several months I am afraid to say it was offered back in a rather poor state, which I feel was 100% due to the fact that our instructions for its use had not been followed.
In my experience these types of BBQs can and should last for years if well cared for and stored in dry conditions and my feeling is that had the BBQ been taken care of as it should have been, it would still be in tip top shape. These types of BBQs are well thought of for many reasons, as they are so very easy to get to grips with. I feel they are a really good choice if you like to cook kebab style meats and vegetables, as well as larger cuts of meat evenly with very little fuss, rather than having to turn burgers and sausages by hand which can risk them not being cooked to perfection.
~Product rating/ price~
I have never had a bad BBQ meal when using this model as once you get used to how much charcoal you need, depending on what you plan to cook, the rotating skewers take all the guess work out of knowing when your food is ready to eat. As this BBQ is a little on the small side it won't suit larger family gatherings but is perfect for smaller BBQs. It also does not have wheels on one side at the base, which is something that many of these types of BBQs have so as to make moving them around a little easier. This is something I feel would have been a benefit had the BBQ been any larger in size. Based on the way the BBQ performed when we had it in use I feel it is worthy of a 4 star product rating, with it losing one star due to its slightly compact nature and lack of wheels. Prices for this model can be anything from £80 to £100 depending on where you buy it, which reflects the fact that it comes with everything you need except batteries, charcoal and food.