Simple to use
Cast iron heats well
Heavy enough for stability
Chimney starter required
Cast iron can rust
We purchased Lodge Cast Iron's The Kickoff Grill so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Portable grills are great not only for traveling, but also if you're short on space. They come in a variety of options, from gas to electric to charcoal. Whether you're cooking in the backyard or on a camping adventure, it's important to find a grill that is lightweight but won't be light enough to tip over if any harsh winds should occur. In the world of grills, the Lodge Cast Iron The Kickoff Grill is one of the simplest, so it was easy to choose foods to cook—steaks, burgers, and brats were at the top of the list—while I also planned to give it a try with a cast iron pan on the grill. With charcoal and lighter in hand, my testing proved what this grill could or couldn’t do.
Design: Rustic and functional
Like so many Lodge Cast Iron pieces, this grill is built to be functional, which gives it a more rustic than decorative look. In fact, it looks a bit like an upside-down Dutch oven. The base of the grill has legs that keep it off the surface, while the top has a ridged surface like a grill pan, as well as four baffles around the rim. Two handles make the base easy to carry by hand if the grill is cold, or with the included handles if the grill is warm.
The top of the grill has matching handles and holes cut along the bottom that provide airflow to the fire. By simply turning the top, the holes are more or less open depending on whether the baffles cover the holes or not. The top of the grill has an integrated grate for cooking.
This isn’t a huge grill, so it’s not going to be useful for big parties, but it was large enough for three burgers during testing; a fourth would have been an easy fit for sure. I was also able to use an 8-inch cast iron pan in the center of the grill while four brats circled it, staying warm while I cooked a side dish.
While this might be too heavy for backpacking into the wilderness, it would be a great camp grill where the weight would be a benefit.
While this grill is a bit heavy—it’s cast iron after all—it was easy enough to move, although I didn’t risk moving the whole thing while it was hot. But I could reposition it, and lifting the top wasn’t difficult when I decided to add more coal. While this might be too heavy for backpacking into the wilderness, it would be a great camp grill where the weight would be a benefit. Unlike lightweight grills, this one wouldn’t tip or move during windy weather, making it much safer than most portable grills. And since the coals are enclosed, it’s also safer than an open campfire.
This is designed to be a standalone grill, but I couldn’t help but notice that with a little creativity, the pieces could serve other purposes. The base could be used on a campfire or on a grill as a griddle or pizza stone with the flat side up, or as a grill with the ridged side up. The top could be flipped upside down and placed on a grill and used as a wok. Of course, it wouldn’t keep liquids in, but it could certainly stir-fry foods while keeping them contained. While someone may never opt for those uses, it’s great that there are options.
Material: Mostly cast iron
The entire grill is made from cast iron, except for the removable handles that slide into the holes on the top or bottom of the grill so it can be moved or carried—carefully—even when it’s hot. They’re made from plated steel, and because they’re removable, they stay cool and ready to re-attach any time the grill needs them. Besides using the handles to move the entire grill, they’re also useful for putting the top piece on once the coals are ready, or for removing the top to feed the coals.
Performance: Good grilling
At first glance, this grill seemed almost too simple. It’s just a base to hold the coals and a top for grilling. Upon closer inspection, the details tell a different story. The deep ridges on the base provide airflow for the burning coals, and the baffles on the base, along with the holes in the top, make it simple to adjust airflow and heat by turning the top piece. The legs keep the grill off the surface below, so it’s less likely to burn the tabletop or grass—although I gave it a home on top of paving stones just to make sure it wasn’t on top of anything flammable.
The tall sides of the grill keep the coals enclosed, so it’s less likely that ash and embers will escape, while the bowl shape keeps the heat in.
Setup Process: Just start a fire
To get the fire started, a chimney starter is recommended, and it gets coals ready for cooking plenty fast. I found that a full chimney was the perfect amount for this grill to fill the base with the right amount of coal for cooking. However, since a chimney can burn the bottom coals down a little too much for them to last long, for longer cooks I added fresh charcoal to the grill before I started cooking. With that addition, I had enough heat for longer cooking sessions. It’s possible to add charcoal during cooking, but that requires either removing the entire top or lifting one side to shove charcoal in.
Once the coals in the chimney starter are ready, it’s a simple matter to tip the coals out onto the base, then arrange them as desired. Then I put the top in place, made sure the vent holes were uncovered, and waited for the grates on top to heat up before I added food. For fatty foods like burgers and sausages, I didn’t bother oiling the grill; for others, I brushed the grates with a little oil before adding the food.
The whole process was simple and pretty much the same process that’s used to start other charcoal grills—just on a smaller scale.
Heating Capacity: Plenty hot
The tall sides of the grill keep the coals enclosed, so it’s less likely that ash and embers will escape, while the bowl shape keeps the heat in. Meanwhile, the vents control the heat, allowing coals to burn hot and fast with the vents fully open, or slower and cooler with the vents partially closed. The cast iron grates on top got plenty hot to create grill marks on everything I cooked, from brats to steaks. When greasy foods started dripping fat on the coals, it produced smoke flavor and just a bit more heat, much like other grills.
I decided to try cooking in a cast iron pan with some ghee and potatoes, hoping to get crisp brown sides. While it’s unlikely that someone would opt to cook on a cast iron pan on a small grill in the backyard when there’s a stovetop in the kitchen, it’s good to know it works. The potatoes got nicely browned with no trouble. When camping, this grill would be great for cooking bacon or pancakes in a pan, or for heating the coffee pot.
Cleaning: Almost self-cleaning
This grill is practically self-cleaning because most food residue simply burns off, but a little care should be taken to prevent rusting. Right after removing food from the grill, I scraped the grates to remove any large bits of food or sauce and let the residual heat burn off what it could. After the grill, as well as the burned coal and ash, were completely cool, I disposed of the ash and brushed the bottom clean. I used a grill brush on the grates to make sure there was no food left; if it still looked dirty, I brought it inside to give it a better scrub.
While the grill came pre-seasoned and the grates should get even better seasoning from cooking, it’s not a bad idea to rub a thin layer of oil on the entire grill if it’s going to be stored for a while. It’s also a good idea to store the grill indoors so that it won’t be subject to rain and damp weather, which promote rusting.
Speaking of rain: Because this takes quite a while to cool off, particularly if there are coals that need to burn down, it’s possible this might end up getting rained on. If that’s the case, it’s wise to dry it off as soon as possible and perhaps give it a little extra oil coating.
The Kickoff Grill retails for around $100. There aren’t a lot of similar grills on the market, but the price is certainly reasonable for a portable grill. The fact that cast iron can last for generations makes it even more affordable, because it won’t need to be replaced after a few seasons.
Competition: You have a few options
Lodge Cast Iron 14-Inch Cast Iron Cook-It-All: While looking for similar grills, I found the Lodge Cast Iron Cook-It-All, which looks similar. It retails for around $140 and can be used for grilling, but it also can be used as a camp wok, pizza pan, and Dutch oven. After a close look, this seems more like a companion piece rather than a competitor. It’s worth a look for anyone interested in outdoor cooking, but the choice isn’t either-or; it’s one or both.
BergHOFF Leo Portable Tabletop Barbecue with Heat-Resistant Base: The BergHOFF Leo Portable Tabletop Barbecue is similar to the Lodge I tested, made from carbon steel rather than cast iron, and with a cute cork lid/base and a loop-carrying handle. The similarity doesn’t include price, however: The BergHOFF comes in at nearly three times the cost of the Lodge, at around $435. While the Berghoff is attractive, I'm going to opt for the Lodge.
A great small grill.
Anyone who needs a small, portable, but durable grill should take a close look at Lodge Cast Iron's The Kickoff Grill. It’s not expensive, can be stored on a shelf in the pantry, and works well. All that, and it’s affordable, too.
- Product Name The Kickoff Grill
- Product Brand Lodge
- Price $100
- Product Dimensions 14.88 x 14.38 x 6.88 in.
- Material Cast iron
- Warranty No formal, but, the Lodge promise says, “…we promise you’ll not only be satisfied with your cookware, but you’ll love it so much you’ll pass it down to the next generation.”