Between college bowl games plus the NFL season entering the home stretch, it’s prime tailgating season! Cooking outdoors can be problematic in winter, so you need smart convenient solutions. The innovative Gizzo Portable BBQ Grill could just be the answer.
The team behind Gizzo comes from Latvia, a land where they’re dead serious about grilling in the elements and not as concerned with a little cold weather. After years of research, Gizzo has come up with a portable grill system that is extremely intelligently designed and sturdily constructed. The entire system packs into a case that is only a little bigger than the laptop computer you were probably using a decade ago. It’s important that you pay close attention to how it was packed so that you can fit everything back into the bag when you’re through because they get a whole lot of gear into this small package. It also comes with a convenient shoulder strap so you can carry it while toting a couple of bags of groceries to the cooking area.
Because everything is so compact and portable, you’ll probably be moving your Gizzo around from your vehicle to the cooking area and then back after you’re finished cooking, so Gizzo thoughtfully provides a set of heat-resistant gloves in the cooking kit.
A zippered bag also contains a full set of tools for grilling, albeit slightly undersized compared to what you might employ with a larger grill on your own back deck. The Lilliputian fork, knife, tongs, spatula and sauce brush are quite sturdy despite their size and include convenient hooks for hanging them out of the way while you’re cooking.
Two grill grates are the next things you’ll uncover in your bag of tricks. To save weight, they aren’t constructed of especially sturdy steel, but they are certainly more substantial than the cheap portable grill you might pick up at a superstore on the way to the ballgame. They also have a clever hinge system to facilitate quick starting of your charcoal. (More on that later.)
A separate searing grate comes in two pieces to be easily assembled if you want to cook something like steaks or chicken breasts that require a better surface to impart the grill marks that we all like to see on our meat. There is also a skillet with a removable handle that is specifically sized to use on the Gizzo, since your own kitchenware might be a little heavy and too big to fit on the reduced cooking surface.
Two detachable shelves expand that cooking area, offering enough room to hold a plate or two for your ingredients and a rack for the included cooking utensils.
The actual foldable Gizzo grill takes up most of the room in the case, but it folds down flat like steel origami.
Unlike some other Northern European products, (We’re looking at you, Ikea!) the instructions and parts list that come with the Gizzo are clearly illustrated and easy to follow.
Two sets of legs fold out and lock in place from under the Gizzo, and then the four walls of the cooking space fold up and slide together to form a sturdy cook box.
Tabs hold the four walls together and hold firmly in place once locked. My one quibble is that the Gizzo is pretty low to the ground when fully assembled, but this is a completely understandable design choice made to benefit portability. You’ll have to do a little stooping to cook with the Gizzo, or consider using a stool to grill sitting down. I guess you could actually take tailgating literally and set it in the tailgate of a truck, but I tend to prefer to keep my open flames away from large tanks of gasoline.
Gizzo comes with a pack of aluminum pans, which while a bit flimsy, may be one of the more clever innovations of the entire system. The pan fits below the lower grate to collect ash and hot embers while you cook. This allows you to safely remove the pan (using those gloves) to dispose of the leftover charcoal after cooking. With these removed, the rest of the grill cools quickly to allow you to pack it back in the carrying bag.
After placing the pan in the bottom of the cooking space, top it with the innovative hinged charcoal starter grate.
Finally, the cooking grate sits on top of the Gizzo, offering an ample distance between the heat and your food to cook without burning.
Here’s a photo with the entire Gizzo assembled with the wing tables attached.
The pan and the searing grates fit perfectly on top of the cook surface so that you can use them both at the same time if desired.
The cooking surface is about 18″ x 12″, and the complete Gizzo grill system weighs 26 lbs.
The cook tools hang conveniently out of the way but within easy reach.
To light your fire, swing the hinged ends of the charcoal starter grate up and lock them in place with the cleverly designed pins to form a basket, similar to a chimney starter you might have used with your own grill. Allowing airflow from all sides and below greatly accelerates the start-up process and cuts the time needed to get your coals to cooking temperature. Note that I used the same lump charcoal that I usually cook with in my ceramic Big Green Egg. This is not recommended because the uneven shape of the coals means that you can’t fit as many in the basket, resulting in fewer coals than you really need to cover the entire cooking area. Instead, I suggest using the regular briquettes that we all grew up with before charcoal got all fancy and stuff. Gizzo also includes some ecologically sound starter cubes to light the fire with. Please don’t use lighter fluid unless you want your food to taste like gasoline!
Yeah, I should have filled up the whole basket. Now you know better.
When the coals have all caught and burned down to a nice gray ashy color, simply disengage the pins to drop the charcoal grate back to its original flat position. (Using those gloves again. Safety first, kids!) This distributes the embers across the entire cooking surface to provide even heat to the grill above.
Because I didn’t use quite enough charcoal, it was difficult to get a proper sear on these two big ole strip steaks I was cooking, but future cooks (not pictured) were much more successful.
Even though the grill wasn’t quite as hot as I wanted, the steaks cooked evenly, and the cook time was not significantly longer than I expected. It was no problem to just carry them inside and drop them into a screaming hot Lodge cast iron skillet for a minute a side to get that lovely seared surface that allows for the crucial Maillard reaction that makes beef so delicious.
Clean up was quick and easy, and after less than a half hour of cooling time, it was simple enough to pack everything back in the bag. And I didn’t even have any parts left over, go figure! It helped that I had a set of photos to document what order everything had to go back in the bag, but now you have those photos, too!
Priced in the $180-$290 range depending on how many bells and whistles you desire, the Gizzo Portable BBQ Grill costs about the same as a regular backyard grill, but with the added benefit of easy portability so you can carry it to the stadium parking lot or even on a camping trip. Try that with your Weber kettle grill! It’s certainly more expensive than the flimsy portable charcoal grills marketed as portable tailgate solutions, but I’ve never purchased one of those that I would want to use more than a couple of times. This will be a mainstay at all my future tailgate parties.
The Gizzo Portable Grille Starter Set retails for around $180 and with all the accessories for $291 (depending on the current Euro exchange rate) and both are available from the manufacturer’s website.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review unit
What I Like: Ingenious design ensures easy portability. Sturdy construction means you’ll be able to use this grill for many seasons to come
What Needs Improvement: I wish it was a little taller, but that would add to the size of the entire package. The sacrifice is worth it to be able to carry the Gizzo to wherever you want to grill