When it comes to summertime cooking just about everyone heads for their outdoor grill. For most that simply means turning a dial and hitting an igniter switch to light the propane fuel of their gas grill. While you surely can't beat the convenience of the gas grills available, it is hard to compare the flavor of foods cooked over gas to that of food cooked over charcoal.
Although cooking over charcoal offers a superior flavor compared to gas, it not only requires more time but also a greater degree of cooking skill (in my opinion). This makes the idea of grilling regularly with a charcoal grill an unrealistic proposition for most people. The cleverly designed Arena Grill from Barbecook does a great job of taking some of the headaches associated with charcoal grills away.
Recently while doing some research on charcoal grills ChefTalk came across the Arena Grill which is manufactured by Barbecook a Belgium company. Although not as well know in the United States compared to the ubiquitous Weber grills they are extremely clever in design which made us eager to test one out.
Although Barbecook offers several different models and styles, their grills are all basically the same. The only real difference between the grill models is the size of the cooking area and the shape very (some rectangular, some circular, etc). The specific model we tested, the Arena, was preferable since it had the second largest cooking area (up to ten people).
The Arena is made out of stainless steel which makes it rust proof and it weighs in at 26 pounds which makes the grill extremely portable. Assembly takes less than ten minutes with only 4 screws which can be bolted on by hand without the need for a tool of any sort. In addition to easy assembly the Arena grill has a large handle that makes it easy to pick up and move back and forth from a storage area.
The main grill rack is a single piece with 2 long handles which fold up when you are done. This allows you to easily change the grilling height. There are 4 different levels to adjust the height of the grill rack which gives you maximum cooking control. No worries about burning your hands or using mitts since the long handles stay quite cool the entire time you grill.
What really sets this grill apart is some of the features that have been incorporated into the design. The grill sits atop a large circular tube which contains of all things a built-in charcoal chimney. Barbecook calls the incorporated charcoal chimney their "quick start" system. Simply remove the grill rack and the perforated cover at the bottom of the grill and place some newspaper (3 or so crumpled pieces) in the chimney. Place the perforated cover back and from the vent holes by the flu you can easily light the newspaper. Within ten to fifteen minutes your coals will be red hot all without the use of any chemicals. It is recommended that you use 100% natural wood charcoal with the grill and not briquettes.
Once you have coals lit you can control the heat of the coals with the flu which is just below the charcoal chimney. The main section of tubing that contains the charcoal chimney also acts as the stand for the grill with the help of a pedestal. It is the pedestal that contains another unique feature to the Arena grill: the "Quick Stop" system. Prior to grilling you fill the base of the pedestal with water. You then connect the grill to the pedestal with two clamps which hold the grill firmly in place. Once your coals are lit and hot ash drops down the tube through the perforated grill cover the water extinguishes the hot ash. The water is also a safety feature in the event someone knocks the grill over. If the grill is knocked to its side the water in the bottom flows down the tube and extinguishes the coals.
We tested out the grill in a variety of ways and found it did an excellent job. The one drawback of the grill is that it has no cover so its applications are somewhat limited. Clearly you can't grill a whole turkey like you might on a Weber grill but for the standard quick grilling applications such as shish kabobs, fish, vegetables, hamburgers etc this is an excellent grill. We did successfully grill an entire chicken on the Arena with the use of a small aluminum pan to act as a cover. You just can't beat the wonderful flavor that cooking with 100% natural wood charcoal imparts to the food. In the case of the chicken it was outstanding and the make-shift grill cover worked fine. It will be interesting to see if Barbecook ever considers adding a cover to their grills in the future.
In summary the Arena grill by Barbecook is a great grill. It has a very small footprint, is light and easy to store, easy to clean and comes with a decent price. What I like about the grill is that it allows someone who owns a gas grill to have the option to use charcoal from time-to-time. And because of its small size it lends itself very well to individuals who have limited grilling space. Because it is so easy to disassemble it also makes a great grill for car camping or tailgating situations.
A quick wrap-up of the pros and cons of the Arena Grill by Barbecook:
A small footprint
Easy to store
Easy to assemble
Easy to clean
It won't rust
Avoids having to use lighter fluid or chemicals
Built-in charcoal chimney (Quickly Start system)
Built-in safety system to extinguish the flames if knocked over
4 different grills positions
A warming rack
Can accommodate a rotisserie attachment
The clips on the side of the tube can be a bit difficult to latch
The tubing is a little thin and it could easily be bent with a little wear and tear.
Where to buy the Arena Grill
If you live in the United States then you have easy access to these wonderful grills via Roger Styles at www.gourmetgrills.net.
Videos of Arena Grill in action
Video of how to set up the Arena grill click here
Video of how to light the Arena grill click here
Video of Arena Quick Start and Quick Stop systems in action click here