Finally, the weather has warmed up enough where we can officially declare the beginning of grilling season, and with it a plethora of new BBQ tools and gadgets to try out. I recently experimented with a new device that purports to get you grilling even faster, The BBQ Dragon; read along to see if it lives up to the hype.
If you’re like me, you can tend to be an impatient griller. It’s critical to make sure that your charcoal is burning evenly before you throw meat on the fire to ensure even cooking. Ideally, you don’t even want to be cooking over flames since this can lead to grease flare-ups and sometimes contribute an acrid taste to whatever you’re cooking.
Instead, with most traditional grills, you should wait until the flames have dies down and you have a consistent bed of coals that have turned from black to gray, meaning that the outer layer has burned off. This makes for a much more even heat and optimum cooking environment.
But, arrrgh, the waiting! There are hungry people in my house waiting for me to get these burgers cooked and they’ve already eaten up all the guacamole. So what is a cookout host to do to speed up the process?
Well, you could use charcoal lighter fluid or Match-Light charcoal that has been pretreated with accelerant to get the coals burning quicker. Please don’t do that! Lighter fluid is a petroleum-based product that can add undesirable flavors to your food, and it can soak into the porous surface of ceramic grills to linger even as a part of future cooking sessions. Plus it’s dangerous since cooker frequently spray lighter fluid onto open flames in a vain attempt to speed up the process. (You know you’ve done it. Don’t do it if you value your eyebrows.)
Another option is to use one of those chimney starters. These have a variety of benefits including speeding up the time between ignition and cooking, and they just use a couple of pieces of newspaper to get the party started. Personally, I no longer have a few pieces of newspaper around my house most of the time, having unsubscribed from my local fish-wrapper years ago in favor of online news outlets. An additional problem with these chimney starters is that you need to have someplace to set a red-hot tin can full of fire while it is preheating and even after you’ve dumped the coals into your grill. On my wooden deck, that’s problematic.
Enter The BBQ Dragon. At first glance, it seems to be an utterly straightforward solution to a problem many folks didn’t ever think about and may cause you to wonder why you didn’t come up with it first. Basically, The BBQ Dragon is a small directional fan attached to an adjustable arm and a sturdy clip to attach it to your grill so you can direct the airflow toward the fire.
Sure, it’s simple, but it’s also crazy smart! The fan is pretty high-powered for its diminutive size, and even better, there’s a rheostat to adjust the airflow so that you don’t blow ash and sparks everywhere. Grates over the input and output of the fan also protect the mechanisms that run the fan.
The strong clamp and adjustable gooseneck allows you to attach The BBQ Dragon to a convenient spot on just about any variety or model of grill to direct the fan wherever you want it. For a traditional kettle grill, they suggest pointing the air down one side, across the bottom and back up through your charcoal. You really only need to light a few coals with a long wooden match to get the fire going. If you have a komodo grill or a box smoker, you can just aim the airflow through the adjustable vent on the bottom to rapidly heat up your charcoal.
The BBQ Dragon also works on firepits or any sort of wood-burning device. Nobody wants to wait around the fire when it’s cold, so this is a nice option. The BBQ Dragon is also designed with clamps that are insulated to reduce the chance of burning your hand when you remove the device after about 10-15 minutes and the fire is ready to go.
The BBQ Dragon comes with rechargeable NiMh batteries and a microUSB port that allows you to recharge them through your computer’s ports or using a regular home or car charger that you probably already have for your electronic devices. One small quibble I had was the fact that I stored my BBQ Dragon in my box full of grill tools on my back deck. As you’d expect, cold weather rapidly discharges rechargeable batteries, so more than once I reached for the Dragon to find it dead. The simple solution is…don’t do that. Or you can always substitute traditional alkaline batteries if you forget to recharge the NiMh’s.
Testing The BBQ Dragon on a variety of grills (yeah, I might have a little problem with my addiction to grill acquisition), I discovered that it sped up the time between ignition and cooking dramatically. Like in half. While it doesn’t have a thermocoupler like some of those more expensive fans that turn themselves on and off to maintain a constant temperature in your Big Green Egg, The BBQ Dragon isn’t really intended for that purpose. It’s just supposed to get you cooking quicker, and it handles that task more than admirably. And at $59.99, it’s a lot cheaper than those other gadgets.
If your time is worth money and your friends are hungry, you might want to consider picking up one of these BBQ Dragons in time to roll out the ol’ Weber for the season!
The BBQ Dragon is available from the company’s website or from various online outlets and grilling supply shops across the country.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Sturdy and simple device that lives up to its promise: to get your grill ready to cook quicker
What Needs Improvement: The rechargeable batteries and microUSB charger setup might be a little overkill compared to the cost of 4 AA batteries, especially considering the amount of time you’ll use it for each grilling session