Grill aficionados seem to all agree that charcoal grills provide superior flavor over gas grills. The problem, particularly when it comes to portable grills, is that the charcoal grill is messier and more time-consuming. The Homping Grill makes charcoal grilling cleaner and easier, using a battery-powered fan to increase efficiency, cut down on the amount of charcoal needed to cook, and nearly eliminate smoke.
Since they need to hold a pile of charcoal, portable charcoal grills are often larger, deeper and bulkier than their propane counterparts. They also require additional bulk in the form of lighter fluid, bags of charcoal and/or chimney starters. Then there's the hassle of prepping that charcoal with lighter fluid or a chimney starter. Transporting and firing up a gas grill is simply more convenient.
The Homping Grill makes charcoal grilling much more competitive with gas grilling in terms of portability and convenience. The grill uses a battery-powered fan to increase heating efficiency, meaning that you can get up to meat-blistering heat with a small amount of charcoal in a relatively compact, shallow grill body. The grill holds up to 12 briquettes, and Homping estimates that eight briquettes will provide an hour of grilling at 400° F (204° C). The round grill measures 14 x 7 in (diameter x height, 36 x 18 cm) and weighs 8.4 lb (3.8 kg).
The design relies on a special ignition gel to start the charcoal. The gel gets ignited in the dish below the charcoal basket, and that coupled with the fan gets the charcoal fire going within just three to four minutes. The fan dial can be adjusted to increase or decrease cooking heat.
The fan-assisted design keeps the grill body cool to the touch, and Homping even says that you can pick it up and move it during grilling. Try that with your average metal tub and expect to spend the next few weeks nursing some serious burns.
Thanks to a dripping pan that prevents flare-ups, Homping says its flame-fanned design eliminates 95 percent of smoke compared to other charcoal grills and that you can even use the grill inside, as well as outside. It markets it as a grilling alternative for those that live in small apartments in which traditional grills are not an option. Indoor use goes against the years of "no charcoal grilling inside!!!!" echoing in our brains, but it's an option for those that can get past those types of reservations.
The Korean-designed Homping Grill first launched in 2013 and made its US debut at last month's National Hardware Show. US distributor Homping Grill USA is now offering it for a preorder price of US$199. The grill should be on store shelves later this year. Those interested in buying one might want to hold off, though, as a USB-powered version is in the works. That model will offer a USB port to draw power from an external battery pack, whereas the current version requires four AA batteries.
Homping Grill USA sent us a sample to put through the paces, and we plan to report back once the 105° F (40.5° C) heat lets up long enough to make traveling in a car and cooking outdoors a more attractive proposition.
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